Strong earthquake shakes Mexico, killing at least 40 people

Strong earthquake shakes Mexico, killing at least 40 people

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake sent people in Mexico City into the streets on Sept. 19, the anniversary of another powerful quake. (Sarah Parnass, Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post)

By Joshua Partlow

BREAKING: At least 42 dead reported in the central state of Morelos

 On the anniversary of a deadly 1985 earthquake, Mexico City again shook with terrifying force on Tuesday, as a 7.1-magnitude temblor damaged buildings, knocked out power and caused alarm throughout the capital. At least four people were reported killed.

Just hours after a siren signaled an annual earthquake drill, the ground began to shake, walls buckled and residents fled into the streets. There were reports of fires and gas leaks. Several people were pulled alive from rubble in the Mexican capital, but others were feared trapped.

Local radio in the city of Cuernavaca, about 35 miles south of Mexico City, also reported that people were pinned beneath collapsed buildings there, according to Reuters.

The scope of the damage and number of casualties were not immediately clear. At least two people were killed in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital, according to local media reports quoting its governor, Alfredo del Mazo. Two others died in the central state of Puebla after a school collapsed, said Fernando Clemente, a civil protection official in the state, Reuters reported.

Sept. 19, 2017People react after the earthquake hit in Mexico City. Carlos Jasso/Reuters

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 76 miles southeast of the capital, near the town of Raboso in Puebla. It struck at 1:14 p.m. local time, the agency said.

Photos published on social media showed that some multistory buildings in Mexico City had pancaked. Emergency workers in yellow hard hats scrambled over mountains of debris — twisted metal beams, chunks of plaster and broken glass — where structures had once stood. Cars were nearly buried in rubble.

Tony Gali, the governor of Puebla, said in a tweet that buildings were damaged. Classes were suspended there and in a large swath of central Mexico while officials checked for damage. Patients were evacuated from damaged hospitals.

In the southern Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacan, the walls of colonial-era buildings cracked and sagged, with some collapsing into rubble. Residents were embracing and crying in the streets. At the Barricas Don Tiburcio shop, shelves bearing food crashed down and wine bottles shattered on the floors.

“This is the worst one I have ever felt,” shopkeeper Beatriz Aguilar Bustamante said. “I don’t know if I will have a house when I go home.”

Earlier this month, one of the most powerful quakes in Mexico’s modern history, an 8.1 magnitude temblor off the coast of the Pacific, killed dozens of people and destroyed hundreds of buildings. The hardest-hit town was Juchitan, in southern Oaxaca state.

Mexico is located on top of three of the largest tectonic plates on Earth and has a long history of deadly earthquakes.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was traveling to Oaxaca to inspect the earthquake damage when the latest quake struck, said in a tweet that he had convened a national emergency council to evaluate the damage that occurred Tuesday. He quickly returned to the capital.

In a Twitter message Tuesday after receiving news of the quake, President Trump wrote: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”