Massive 8.1-magnitude earthquake rocks Mexico

A powerful 8.1 magnitude earthquake, resulting in the deaths of at least 38 people, struck Mexico’s southern coast CNN reports.

The quake was deemed to be the strongest felt in Mexico in the past one hundred years. Hemmed in on both sides, the epicenter of the quake registered off of Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, around 600 miles southeast of Mexico’s capital and 74 miles off the coast. This was just as rains from the burgeoning Hurricane Katia reached Mexico’s eastern shores. The effects of the earthquake could be felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City.

Around 50 million people across the country felt the temblor as they slept Thursday night. Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, noted it was the strongest earthquake the country has witnessed in 100 years. One of the last deadly events was the 1985 September earthquake, which killed around 9,500 people in the Mexico City area.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported “multiple aftershocks” following the earthquake. At least six of the resulting tremors measured above 5.0 in magnitude. Jana Pursely, a staff geophysicist with the USGS, told CNN that as the depth of the quake was particularly shallow, at just 43 miles, it resulted in “more intense shaking.”

Additionally, Pursely told CNN that she expects there to be a costly cleanup ahead, with severe damage along the coast.

The National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center confirmed a tsunami in Mexico as well, with one wave at three feet. Ten-foot tall tsunami waves could still potentially hit the coast of Mexico. Three-foot waves could potentially reach as far as Ecuador, New Zealand and Vanatu, the center reported.

The closest states to the quake’s epicenter are Chiapas and Oaxaca. Home to about 9 million people, the two states were hit the hardest due to their proclivity. They are also two of the “most impoverished areas in Mexico,” CNN points out.

So far, Governor Alejandro Murat and the Foreign Ministry originally reported 23 deaths in Oaxaca to CNN. Local and federal officials reported an additional seven deaths in Chiapas and two in Tabasco. Al Jazeera reports differ slightly, claiming a death toll of 25 in Oaxaca. Some of the worst reports, Al Jazeera relates, come from the Oaxacan town of Juchitan. Much of the town, including parts of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings, were reduced to mere rubble.

President Nieto called Mexico’s army, marines and federal police into action. “Civil protection protocols are activated, including the National Emergency Committee,” Nieto tweeted via CNN.


As a result of the quake, nearly 2 million homes lost electricity. Seventy-four percent of the 1.85 million have since had service restored. Many lack water service, which Nieto cautions could take anywhere from 36 to 48 hours to fix.

Officials have ordered schools across 10 states to remain closed on Friday. This will allow authorities to conduct a proper inspection of the structural damage. Already, helicopters have been flying over the areas affected by the quake to monitor damage. As of now, it is too early to tell the precise extent of the damage.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the USGS, told Al Jazeera that such a quake was expected for the region.

“Off the west coast of Mexico is what’s called the subduction zone, the Pacific Plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula,” she explained to the Associated Press. “It’s a very flat fault, so it’s a place that has big earthquakes relatively often because of that.”

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons

About Kirsten Loose

AvatarGive me the smell of a thrift shop bookstore over a puff of Chanel No. 5; a cup of tea and a scone over a siren-painted, white paper cup; and, the four seasons in all their temperamental glory over a life of endless sunshine. I'm an East-coast girl from the suburbs of Philadelphia who can't decide which is better, the countryside or the cityscape.

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