A powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico late Thursday, killing at least 32 people in what the president called the quake-prone country’s biggest one in a century.
The quake hit offshore in the Pacific at 11:49 pm (0449 GMT), about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the coastal town of Tonala, in far southern Chiapas state, Mexico’s seismologic service said.
“It was a major earthquake in scale and magnitude, the strongest in the past 100 years,” said President Enrique Pena Nieto in an address from the National Disaster Prevention Center’s headquarters, where he was supervising the emergency response.
The US Geological Survey put the magnitude slightly lower, at 8.1. That is the same as a devastating 1985 earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people in Mexico City — the country’s most destructive ever.
In the capital, people ran out of buildings — many in their pajamas — after hearing warning sirens go off just before midnight (0500 GMT Friday).
“Not another one. God, please no,” said one woman, falling to her knees to pray.
“I was driving when the ground started to shake. The car was wobbling,” said Cristian Rodriguez, a 28-year-old Uber driver in Mexico City.
The quake shook a large swath of the country and was felt as far north as Mexico City — some 800 kilometers from the epicenter — where people ran from their homes as buildings trembled and swayed.
Authorities initially declared a tsunami alert stretching all the way south to Ecuador, but lifted it several hours later.
The worst destruction appeared to be in Juchitan, in the state of Oaxaca, where 23 deads were registered.
A spokesman for emergency services said seven people were also confirmed dead in the neighboring state of Chiapas. Earlier, the governor of Tabasco, Arturo Nunez, said two children had died in his state.
Officials said the death toll there could rise.
“There are houses that collapsed with people inside,” Luis Felipe Puente, the agency’s director general, told TV news channel Milenio.
Rescue workers labored through the night in badly affected areas to check for people trapped in collapsed buildings.