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Mexico earthquake causes panic but little damage in the capital

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MEXICO CITY — A powerful earthquake shook a wide area of Mexico on Friday, terrifying residents and sending many fleeing into the streets.

There were no initial reports of serious injuries or major damage in the capital.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, which occurred about 9:30 a.m., had a preliminary magnitude of 7.2, which would make it one of the stronger temblors registered in Mexico City in several years. It was 14 miles deep and was felt in nine of Mexico's 31 states, in addition to the capital, according to the agency, with the epicenter in the coastal state of Guerrero about 200 miles southwest of the capital.

In Mexico City, buildings, statues and lampposts swayed and windows shattered during the quake, which lasted nearly a full minute. Civil protection authorities said at least 48 buildings had new cracks and that 15 retaining walls had collapsed.

Some residents fled their houses barefoot and carrying pillows. The quake temporarily knocked out electricity, traffic lights and cellphone service in some parts of the capital.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, who was at a Good Friday news conference when the quake hit, later flew over the city in a helicopter to inspect the damage. He urged residents to remain calm and brace for aftershocks.

"The important part is that we have no reports of injured people," he told reporters. "We did see that many buildings were evacuated of their people, and we are continuing to survey the capital."

Ricardo de la Cruz, civil protection chief for the Interior Ministry, said, "We have only gotten reports of minor damage."

Good Friday is an important holiday in largely Roman Catholic Mexico, and most businesses were closed and people were home or attending religious services. The elaborate, annual reenactment of the Passion of Christ in the capital's congested Iztapalapa neighborhood went ahead on schedule, and life seemed to be quickly returning to normal.

However, Guerrero, where the Mexican seismological service placed the epicenter south of Petatlan between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, is a heavily seismic region and is often slow to report damage because of the remoteness of some communities. A 7.4 temblor there in 2012 killed two people and damaged thousands of buildings.

Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre tweeted that so far he had received reports only of "minor and isolated" damage.

A bridge on the highway between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, crowded with holiday tourists, cracked and traffic was halted.

Luis Felipe Puente, another civil protection official, said a tsunami warning for the Pacific Coast was not necessary because waves had risen by only about 15 inches. Still, Guerrero urged tourists to take precautions on the beaches, which are traditionally packed this time of year.

In Mexico City, Puente said, authorities had checked the subway, hospitals and the international airport, and all were operating normally.

Much of Mexico City was destroyed and more than 10,000 people were killed in a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1985, but officials say they have put more safeguards into place since then.

wilkinson@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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