A massive earthquake struck southern Mexico overnight, killing at least 32 people and causing extensive damage. The magnitude 8.1 quake was centered about 74 miles off the Mexican coast and the state of Chiapas.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said the quake was the strongest felt in Mexico in 100 years. Aftershocks in the 5.0 to 5.3 magnitude range continue off the coast near the border of Chiapas and Oaxaca.
Mexico has already experienced a one-meter (three feet) tsunami and additional waves taller than three meters (10 feet) could occur, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning System. Regions as far away as Ecuador and New Zealand could experience a tsunami of up to three meters. There is no tsunami threat for Hawaii or California, according to the Tsunami Warning System.
More than 1.8 million Mexican homes lost electricity, and about three-fourths of them have had their power turned back on, according to CNN.
Heavy shaking was felt as far away as Mexico City, where residents reported strange flashing lights and a greenish sky. Videos on social media showed heavy shaking and loud roaring. The quake occurred at a shallow depth below the earth’s surface, which the USGS reports leads to heavier shaking. It moved a fault line 32 feet from its original position.
Many towns and buildings experienced extreme damage in Oaxaca and Chiapas. Social media lit up with messages from residents about el #sismo and #earthquakemexico.
The Angel of Independence in Mexico City shook visibly during the quake, almost 500 miles from the epicenter.
An aftershock of at least 7.2 is possible, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Schools are closed throughout central and southern Mexico, including the state of Mexico and Mexico City, Chiapas, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Guerrero, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Tlaxcala. Some schools have been damaged, and inspections are required at a minimum, Mexican President Pena Nieto said.
In 1985, an 8.0 quake hit Mexico City, killing 5,000 people and destroying 10,000 homes. This quake appears to be stronger, but it was centered off the Pacific coast, which helped to reduce damage.
The quake is no surprise, according to Lucy Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist. The Pacific tectonic plate is moving under the Mexican tectonic plate off the coast of Chiapas. The state experiences many earthquakes, including temblors above 7.0, because five different plates of the earth’s crust intersect in the region.
[Featured Image by Moyses Zuniga/AP Images]