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Quake Hits West of Mexico City

August 9, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A strong earthquake centered under the Pacific Ocean shook western and central Mexico early Wednesday, 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 temblor. 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.

At least one person was hurt when parts of a wall collapsed at a hotel under repair in Lazaro Cardenas, according to the city’s civil defense agency, but there were few other reports of significant damage.

``There were only broken windows and cracks in some walls,″ civil defense worker Jesus Alonso Mondragon said by telephone. He said residents jerked awake by the quake fled into the streets.

Parts of the city briefly lost electrical power.

``We felt it strong,″ said another civil defense worker, Marlene Ramos, who added that the quake shook many people awake and knocked over store shelves.

She said police and other workers surveying communities even closer to the quake’s center had found no serious damage. About 160,000 people live in Lazaro Cardenas and its administrative district, which extends for about 45 miles along the coast.

The area near Lazaro Cardenas is not a main tourist region, and the government’s Notimex news agency said the quake was felt only slightly in the coastal resorts of Zihuatanejo and Acapulco to the southeast. In Mexico City, the earthquake cut power in the 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.