Quake Shakes Nervous Mexico City; Four Rural Deaths Reported
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A strong earthquake destroyed scores of buildings in southern Mexico on Thursday and shook the nerves of a region preparing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of a disastrous 1985 quake.
At least one child was killed. But officials said they could not confirm a report of three other deaths because there were no communications with the remote mountain village, 70 miles east of Acapulco and 190 miles southeast of Mexico City.
A 72-year-old man died of a heart attack at the time of the quake in the town of San Juan Colorado, in Oaxaca state, according to the state government.
Well over 200 adobe houses in the southwestern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero suffered shattered walls or collapsed roofs from the force of the quake, the largest in Mexico since an 8.1 quake struck on Sept. 19, 1985.
Tens of thousands of Mexico City residents, some shouting and others weeping with fear, fled into the streets of the capital when the ground began to roll with a sea-like motion at 8:04 a.m. (10:04 a.m. EDT).
The waves of the quake, centered near the Oaxaca-Guerrero state border about 190 miles south-southeast of Mexico City, lasted for nearly a minute.
Earthquake centers in Mexico and the United States measured it at magnitude 7.2 to 7.3. An earthquake of a 7 magnitude is a major quake capable of widespread heavy damage when centered in a heavily populated area.
At least seven small aftershocks of up to 4 magnitude followed within the first hour, according to Mexico’s National Seismological Service.
A falling wall killed an 8-year-old boy in the town of San Isidro Ometepec, said town secretary Carlos Pina Arzate.
Another death reported by Notimex, in the village of Azoyu, was denied by town officials.
Matias Vargas Gonzalez, a truck driver for the national oil company Pemex, said he saw serious damage _ but little of it catastrophic _ as he drove across the heart of the quake zone Thursday from Acapulco south to Pinotepa Nacional, about 125 miles away.
Officials in Pinotepa Nacional reported a school roof collapsed, slightly injuring three children.
Ninety houses were destroyed and another 290 damaged in the town of Igualapa, in Guerrero’s coastal mountains.
Emergency sirens shrieked across the capital and traffic suddenly halted on major highways as drivers stopped and jumped from their swaying cars. Crowds who had evacuated high-rises briefly blocked traffic.
Nearly 50 houses, most of adobe, were destroyed and 80 others seriously damaged in the state of Oaxaca, according to officials there.
But the only reports of injuries in Oaxaca came from the town of Pinotepa Nacional, where three children were slightly hurt when the roof of a primary school collapsed, said Silverio Fernandez Santiago, a state official.
In Mexico City, trading in the glass-walled national stock market stopped dead for about 45 minutes.
Elsewhere in the basin of 20 million people, a few windows broke, the power went out, and walls cracked from the strain. But the greatest damage appeared to be to nerves.
``The people here are almost psychotic″ about quakes, said Alma Rosa Lopez, 31, who lives a few yards from where hundreds died in when a quake collapsed the 15-story Nuevo Leon Building on Sept. 19, 1985.
The federal Interior Ministry reported that 25 people were hospitalized Thursday for nervous collapse. It said there were no reported injuries or deaths.
Calm returned quickly for most, but not for Rosa Calzada, who remained on the sidewalk in front of the 20-story Veracruz building four hours after the quake, too afraid to return to her fourth-floor apartment. Reporters saw cracks nearly two inches wide in some of the walls.
In the park next door, where the Nuevo Leon building had stood, workmen were whitewashing a new monument being raised to victims of the 1985 quake.
``There was a lot of panic, especially among adults″ on Thursday, said Sofia Siegler, an architect. ``They live with the image (of 1985.)″
That quake, recorded at 8.1, killed at least 6,000 people and destroyed or badly damaged thousands of buildings. It prompted tougher new building standards and the creation of new civil defense organizations.
Most Mexican quakes occur along a long swath of coastline from the Guatemalan border to a point near Puerto Vallarta, where the Cocos Plate of the earth’s crust is thrusting under the North American Plate.
While Mexico City is often hundreds of miles away from the epicenter, it is vulnerable because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds. They jiggle like jelly when the quake waves hit.