Fifty-eight people died in the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck off Mexico’s Pacific coast and rocked numerous southern states, authorities said. The National Emergency Committee on Friday confirmed 45 deaths in Oaxaca state, 10 in Chiapas and three more in Tabasco state, national civil protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente tweeted.
Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat said that around three-dozen people in perished in Juchitan de Zaragoza, a city in the hard-hit Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, Efe news reported. He told Radio Formula that rescuers were searching for a policeman thought to be buried under the rubble of a collapsed building in Juchitan, where the city hall was badly damaged, along with at least 7,000 homes.
State authorities’ main priorities are searching people trapped in the wreckage and securing shelter for those forced from their homes, Murat said. President Enrique Peña Nieto arrived Friday afternoon in Oaxaca to tour the affected areas with Puente and Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. The governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco, said in a radio interview that the death toll in his state had climbed from nine to 12, including one person who succumbed to a heart attack.
The quake damaged 1,700 homes, 700 schools and 18 other public buildings in Chiapas, according to preliminary estimates. Mexican authorities evacuated nearly 10,000 coastal residents amid fears of a tsunami, but the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said later that the tsunami threat had passed.
The temblor struck at 11.49 p.m. on Thursday, with its epicenter located 119 km southwest of Tres Picos, Chiapas. Peña Nieto told reporters early Friday from the National Disaster Prevention Center that the quake was slightly more powerful than the devastating 1985 temblor that left thousands dead and missing in Mexico City and was the strongest to hit Mexico in 100 years.
The earthquake was felt in at least 10 states of southern and central Mexico that are home to 50 million people, or nearly half of the nation’s population, the president said. Impacts extended to neighbouring Guatemala, which experienced six aftershocks in the hours following the original earthquake.
Seismologists in Mexico recorded numerous aftershocks, including one that reached magnitude-6.1. The federal government has declared an “extraordinary emergency” for 118 municipalities in Chiapas and 41 in Oaxaca.