Mexico natural disaster toll rises to 61, search and rescue ops underway

Relatives of 38-year-old earthquake victim German Torres attend his funeral in Juchitan Oaxaca state Mexico Saturday Sept. 9 2017

People ran into the streets in Mexico City, one of the world's largest metropolises and home to more than 20 million, and alarms sounded after the quake struck just before midnight.

Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat said that around three-dozen people in perished in Juchitan de Zaragoza, a city in the hard-hit Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, Efe news reported.

The natural disaster of magnitude 8.1 quake, which was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, was also registered off Mexico's southern coast just as heavy rains from Hurricane Katia lashed the east.

At least 60 people died when the most powerful quake to hit Mexico in over eight decades tore through buildings and forced mass evacuations in the poor southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, triggering alerts as far away as Southeast Asia. The extent of the destruction is still emerging.

The interior department in neighboring Puebla state evacuated 1,500 people to storm shelters as a preventative measures, but reported no serious damage or deaths.

The earthquake's impact was blunted somewhat by the fact that it was centred 100 miles (160 kilometres) offshore. It was slightly stronger than the 1985 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The tsunami is not a big worry, Nieto said. Its epicenter was 102 miles (165 kilometers) west of Tapachula in Chiapas, with a depth of 43.3 miles (69.7 kilometers), the USGS said. Throughout Friday, the region was shaken with scores of aftershocks.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves of 3.3 feet (1 meter) above the tide level off Salina Cruz, Mexico.

Scientists were still reviewing data, but a preliminary analysis indicated the quake was triggered by the sudden breaking or bending of the Cocos plate, which dives beneath Mexico.

By the time alarmed residents felt the first shockwaves from the 8.1 magnitude quake, many had already made it onto the streets or into parks, well away from trembling and swaying buildings.

State authorities' main priorities are searching people trapped in the wreckage and securing shelter for those forced from their homes, Murat said.

Authorities said small tsunami waves of up to 40 centimeters were recorded on the far-flung Chatham Islands, with 25 centimeter surges on the New Zealand coast, some 15 hours after the quake.

The magnitude-8.1 quake was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City.

In neighbouring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales appeared on national television to call for calm while emergency crews surveyed damage.


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