An 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the west coast of Mexico late on Thursday, causing major tsunami warnings for nearby Latin American countries and causing the deaths of at least 33 individuals.
Tsunami alerts for Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, and Ecuador were issued shortly after the tremor.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called it the country’s strongest in a century. The tremors were also impactful in nearby Guatemala.
The earthquake was first reported by the United States Geological Survey at 8.0-magnitude at 12:49 am ET, or 4:49 am UTC, and came in at 35 km deep.
However, the Mexican Seismological Service pinned it as 8.2 later on. It was 11:50 pm local time when the quake struck.
A second, smaller 5.7 magnitude tremor struck closer to the coast soon after at 1:01 am ET, or 5:01 UTC, along with four other aftershocks around the same magnitude.
People were spotted fleeing buildings in Mexico City as much of the power grid went dark, as well as sightings of a green hue lighting up the sky in the capital. Tremors there lasted up to a minute.
Mr. Nieto said that 50 million Mexicans may have felt the tremor across the country.
In Oaxaca state, 23 died, including 17 in the town of Juchitan, according to its governor Alejandro Murat.
Seven died in in nearby Chiapas, and two in Tabasco state. Reports say a baby died when power to a respirator was shut off.
Just south of Mexico, in Guatemala, one person has died as a result of the quake, according to it president, Jimmy Morales.
Sources in Guatemala City have told the Journal that its capital remains safe and with power, despite feeling the tremor.
However, reports of major landslides have emerged from large swathes of the country’s rural regions.
Quake shakes Xela
The second largest city in Guatemala felt the tremor for over a minute on Thursday.
Quetzaltenango, known to locals as Xela, is located in the east of Guatemala, closer to the epicentre of the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Mexico then its capital city.
Bethany Cok, a locally based communications advisor with non-profit’s, said that “the earthquake was strong enough to be a bit scary but thankfully not strong enough to do much damage.”
Cok lives in the city and has worked in Guatemala for over a year.
“I woke up to a strong shaking feeling and head a couple thuds, which were candles falling off a nearby shelf,” she told our publication.
“The shaking went on for what seemed like quite a while, over a minute, and as soon as it stopped I could hear voices in the streets.”
Cok said there was a lot of commotion outside her house as people were confused and did not know where the epicentre of the quake was. There were also power outages in Xela, and across Guatemala.
Details right after the quake were largely unclear across news networks, official sources and social media. But in rural areas of Guatemala, some may not learn where the tremors originated for several days
Cok used Facebook’s safety check in feature that shows up for people near natural disasters to inform her friends and family over social media that she was alive and well.
Tsunami threat dissipates
Originally, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, or PTWC, had warned of 3m high waves were possible along Mexico’s coast, with waves also striking Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica.
Coastal areas were evacuated close to the epicentre of the quake, which was
However, the PTWC reported later on Friday that waves only came in at 0.7m on the Mexican coast.
The US has set out warnings regarding its power grid and possible failures, but this was due to the solar flares and not the earthquake as some reports have mislead.
Top image from Reuters of Mexicans outside in the capital following the earthquake. More details to follow.