News Column

Massive, Shallow Quake Rocks Southern Mexico

March 20, 2012

A massive, shallow earthquake struck Tuesday in southern Mexico.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon quickly said on his Twitter account that no serious damage or injuries were immediately reported. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said that the sprawling capital's underground network and its airports were operating normally.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake at magnitude 7.4, lowered from an initial estimate of magnitude 7.6 . It struck around midday with an epicentre in the state of Oaxaca on the Guatemalan border.

Mexico's National Seismological Service estimated the magnitude at 7.8, with an epicenter south of Ometepec, a city of 50,000 in the state of Guerrero, about 100 miles from the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

There were no immediate reports from the sparsely populated region where the quake was centred, which is the heart of the country's ancient Maya civilization. Large tremors were felt more than 185 miles away, sending thousands of people pouring into the streets from tall buildings.

The temblor struck ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's scheduled arrival Friday in Mexico to start a six-day Latin American tour that includes Cuba.

The quake's shallow depth of nearly 11 miles -- similar to the depth of the 2010 quake that destroyed Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- raised the specter of major damage.

Strong shudders caused by the quake were felt as far away as Mexico City. Telephone service was cut, there were partial blackouts, and goods tumbled from store shelves, while some internal walls cracked and others collapsed even in the capital, about 198 miles north-west of the epicentre.

The quake affected traffic, particularly in areas where traffic lights malfunctioned.

At least two aftershocks, with magnitudes of 5.3 and 5, were reported, the Mexican Seismological Service said.

Earlier, UNESCO's Tsunami Information Center reported a magnitude of 7.8 or 7.9, but because the quake struck on land, not sea, there was no tsunami warning.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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