Magnitude 8.1 quake rocks southern Mexico; Deaths, widespread damage, power outages reported

Sep 8, 2017 | 2 comments

A massive 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of southern Mexico early Friday morning, killing at least five people and triggering a tsunami.

The quake, which was felt as far away as Mexico City and Guatemala City, struck 74 miles (120 kilometers) off the Pacific Coast at 12:49 a.m. ET Friday, when many people would have been sleeping.

The quake occurred on the subduction zone fault that runs from Alaska to southern Chile, the most active fault in the world. It is the same fault the produced a magnitude 7.8 quake that killed 700 last year on the coast of Ecuador in 2016.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said that much of Mexico City was without power and that damage was widespread. Preliminary reports say that three people died in the state of Chiapas and two in Tabasco. Gov. Manuel Velasco said two of them died in a house collapse. Government officials say they expect casualties to be in the thousands.

Peña said the quake was the strongest recorded in Mexico in more than 100 years.

Some 23,000 people likely experienced violent shaking, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS Pager system, which predicts economic and human loss following earthquakes, issued a red alert. “High casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response,” it said.

A tsunami was confirmed on the Mexico west coast, with one wave coming in at 3 feet (1 meter), according to a tweet from the National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center’s verified account.

The quake had a depth of 69.7 kilometers (43 miles), according to the USGS. It was a particularly shallow quake, according to Jana Pursely, a geophysicist at the USGS. A number of aftershocks have also been recorded, some measuring above 5.0 on the Richter scale.