Quake Hits Near Mexico City

A strong earthquake centered under the Pacific Ocean shook western and central Mexico early today, cracking walls, breaking windows and sending people racing into the streets.

Mexico’s National Seismological Service put the magnitude at 7.0, but the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. said it was a 6.4-magnitude tembler. The quake was centered about 240 miles west-southwest of Mexico City in the Pacific Ocean, and about 30 miles west of the coastal city of Lazaro Cardenas.

A civil defense official, Jesus Alonso Mondragon, said at least one person was hurt when parts of a wall collapsed at a hotel under repair in Lazaro Cardenas, the closest sizable city to the epicenter. Mondragon said the “strong” quake sent people running into the streets as buildings shook, but he said early reports indicated only minor damage.

Damage Was Minor “There were only broken windows and cracks in some walls,” he said by telephone.

Power was briefly knocked out to part of the city. The earthquake also cut power in Mexico City’s Colonia Guerrero neighborhood, according to Televisa network.

A magnitude-6 quake can cause severe damage if it is centered under a populated area. Magnitude 7 indicates a major earthquake capable of widespread, heavy damage. Since the start of 1990, Mexico’s National Seismological Service has recorded 38 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

Mexico’s worst killer quakes hit its Pacific coast, where continental plates clash. Among those was the 8.1-magnitude 1985 quake that killed thousands in Mexico City.

Mexico City’s construction in a valley on an old lake bed tends to amplify distant quakes. The 1985 quake occurred 200 miles away, but set the soil beneath Mexico City shifting like sand. Towns on solid ground closer to the epicenter suffered far less damage.

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