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Race to Rescue Mexico’s Quake Survivors as Hurricane Katia Makes Landfall | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A damaged wall and a smashed vehicle are pictured after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Police, soldiers and emergency workers raced Friday to rescue survivors from the ruins of Mexico’s most powerful earthquake in over eight decades, which killed at least 61 people.

The 8.1 magnitude quake off the southern coast late Thursday was stronger than a devastating 1985 temblor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands.

The tremor rattled Mexico City and shook Guatemala and El Salvador but Mexico’s southern region was hit hardest by the quake. There, emergency workers looked for survivors — or bodies — in the rubble of houses, churches and schools that were torn apart in the quake.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said 45 people were killed in Oaxaca, 12 in Chiapas and four in Tabasco. But the actual death toll could be over 80, according to figures reported by state officials.

Meanwhile Hurricane Katia made landfall near the working-class beach resort of Tecolutla in the state of Veracruz on the Mexican Gulf coast, packing rains likely to cause “life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in areas of mountainous terrain,” the US National Hurricane Center said.

The Category One storm had sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour.

Veracruz state officials also said in a statement on Friday that the storm could cause landslides and flooding, and urged people living below hills and slopes to be prepared to evacuate.

Adding to the concerns, authorities warned another massive quake could follow within 24 hours of the first hit.

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 disaster.

More than 200 people were injured across Mexico, officials said. 

Four people were also injured in neighboring Guatemala, where President Jimmy Morales flew over affected areas and ordered urgent humanitarian assistance.