Mexico’s most powerful earthquake in a century killed at least 58 people, officials said on Friday, after it struck the Pacific coast, wrecking buildings and sending families fleeing into the streets.
Rescue workers rushed to the worst scenes of destruction, in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, where officials warned there may be people trapped in the ruins.
President Enrique Pena Nieto described the 8.2-magnitude quake as “the largest registered in our country in at least the past 100 years”, stronger even than a devastating 1985 earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people in Mexico City.
The head of the country’s disaster response agency, Luis Felipe Puente, said 45 people were killed in Oaxaca, 10 in Chiapas and three in Tabasco.
The Chiapas governor, Manuel Velasco, said 12 people had died there. Officials warned the toll could continue to rise in the three hard-hit southern states.
The worst destruction appeared to be in Juchitan, Oaxaca, where 17 people were pulled from the rubble.
“There are houses that collapsed with people inside,” Luis Felipe Puente, director general of the emergency response agency, told TV news channel Milenio.
A hotel also collapsed in Juchitan, the town hall partly caved in, and many homes were badly damaged.
Pope Francis, at an open air mass on a visit to Colombia, said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and their families” in the quake.
More than 200 people were injured across Mexico, officials said. Four people were also injured in neighbouring Guatemala.
The quake epicentre was about 100 kilometre from the coastal town of Tonala, in far southern Chiapas state. It hit at 11.49pm on Thursday (12.49pm Singapore time Friday), Mexico’s seismologic service said.
The US Geological Survey put the magnitude slightly lower, at 8.1 – the same as the 1985 quake, the country’s most destructive ever.
It is one of three active hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean alongside Irma and Jose.
Speaking from the National Disaster Prevention Centre’s headquarters, where he was supervising the emergency response, Pena Nieto said that 50 million people out of Mexico’s population of 120 million people felt the quake.
Mexican officials ordered schools to remain closed on Friday in 11 states, including Mexico City, so they could inspect for structural damage.
The quake struck at a depth of 69.7 kilometres, according to the USGS.