Mexico hit by powerful 7.5 earthquake on fateful anniversary


MEXICO CITY – An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit western Mexico on Monday on the anniversary of two devastating earthquakes, killing at least two people, damaging buildings, turning off power and killing residents of Mexico -City scrambled out for their safety.

Two died in the Pacific port of Manzanillo, authorities said, one crushed by the facade of a department store, while another was found dead in a shopping center. Videos on social media showed the roof of the shopping center collapsing in the top floor, a gym, as people screamed for help.

Authorities also reported damage to several hospitals in the western state of Michoacan near the epicenter, which was in a sparsely populated part of Mexico. One person was injured by falling glass at one of the hospitals, the government said.

The earthquake struck shortly after 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) near Mexico’s west coast and close to Michoacan’s border with Colima state — where the major port of Manzanillo is located, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

It was relatively shallow, only 15 km (9 mi) deep, which would have magnified its impact.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas, saying waves from 1 to 3 meters (3 to 9 feet) above the tide level are possible.

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Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said there were no immediate reports of major damage in the capital after the earthquake, which swept through Mexico on the same day as devastating earthquakes that hit the country in 1985 and 2017.

“It seems like a curse,” Isa Montes, a 34-year-old graphic designer in the city’s central Roma neighborhood, said of the timing of the earthquake as helicopters flew over the city, surveying the city.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), one of the country’s most prestigious higher education sites, said there was no scientific explanation for three major earthquakes on the same day and attributed it to pure coincidence.

But others couldn’t quite believe it.

“It’s this date. There’s something about the 19th,’ said Ernesto Lanzetta, a business owner in the Cuauhtemoc borough. “The 19th is a day to be afraid of.”

Thousands of people died in the September 19, 1985 earthquake and more than 350 people died in the September 19, 2017 earthquake.

Many Mexicans responded to the latest earthquake by posting a series of memes online to air their fears and find humor in the natural disaster.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also noted property damage near the epicenter. Images of heavily damaged buildings were seen on social media.

Mexican authorities said the seismic alarm had sounded nearly two minutes before the earthquake struck, giving residents time to evacuate.

Still, some people in the capital struggled to understand that it was a real earthquake, as the government had already raised the alarm earlier in the day as a practice exercise to commemorate the earlier earthquakes on the same day.

Power off

In Coalcoman, Michoacan, not far from the epicenter, photos of shingles had been knocked off houses and walls of buildings cracked from the force of the earthquake. In one store, merchandise was scattered across the floor.

The power went out in parts of Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood, about 400 km from the epicenter. The national electric utility said 1.2 million users were affected by power outages.

Roma residents lined the streets with pets, while tourists visiting a local market with a guide were visibly confused and upset. Traffic lights stopped working and people grabbed their phones, sent text messages or waited for calls to come through.

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Clara Ferri, owner of an Italian bookshop in Roma, said she told a customer to leave as soon as she heard the windows rattling, her senses tuned to the sounds of earthquakes starting after 16 years at the site.

“It was like the dentist’s drill for me,” she said.

The rumbling intensified, and when Ferri gathered at a neighbor’s intersection at an intersection, she looked up to see the eight-story building that houses her shop swaying from side to side.

When she returned, the shelves had toppled like dominoes, knocking over 1,000 books to the floor.

Officials closed off the sidewalk, which was littered with masonry that appeared to have fallen from the building. Residents trickled out with pets and suitcases, ready to spend the night elsewhere, and a woman carefully escorted her 89-year-old uncle in his blue-and-white striped pajamas.

(Additional coverage by Isabel Woodford, Stefanie Eschenbacher, Anthony Esposito, Raul Cortes, Diego Ore, and Mexico City Newsroom; written by Dave Graham; edited by Stephen Eisenhammer, Sandra Maler, Cynthia Osterman, and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Catastrophe Natural Disasters Mexico Earthquake


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