MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A strong earthquake rocked southern Mexico on Thursday, toppling church towers and old homes in Oaxaca and shaking buildings in the capital. At least eight people were killed and an unknown number injured.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.5 and it was centered 275 miles southeast of Mexico City, the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. said. It hit at about 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. EDT).

Moderate damage was reported in Oaxaca City, the state capital, where church steeples and many homes collapsed.

``The world is coming to an end!'' a secretary screamed as she and dozens of others ran out of the state legislature building after the 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. EDT) quake. The temblor lasted for several minutes.

Gov. Jose Murat Casab said at least eight people died in his state. Two deaths occurred when a doorway collapsed in a store in Oaxaca City, crushing a man and a woman who had taken refuge underneath. Another man was crushed by debris while fleeing from his office.

Two more women died in the small village of Santo Domingo Teojomulco and one in San Jose del Progreso. In Miahuatlan, a woman was killed by falling debris, and a 12-year-old girl in Tuxtepec died of a heart attack that was attributed to the quake.

About 300 houses were badly damaged in the state, Murat Casab said.

Only minor damage was reported in Huatulco, a popular tourist resort near the epicenter. Mayor Jorge Sanchez Cruz said there was ``normal panic'' there.

And in the nearby resort of Puerto Escondido, 15 buildings were damaged and electricity was cut. City Hall spokeswoman Norma Alquitra said nobody was hurt.

Federal environmental officials said water and sewage treatment plants were damaged in 95 percent of Oaxaca state, Notimex reported.

In Mexico City, thousands of people rushed out of offices and gathered along Reforma Avenue and other major thoroughfares in the capital, staring at skyscrapers that were visibly moving. Shattered glass was seen falling from some buildings.

``Everybody was frightened. It lasted a long time,'' said Thalia Martinez.

``Usually they feel like gelatin,'' said Abel Cueller, an engineer who was on the 10th floor of an office building during the quake. ``This one was more of a shaker''

The quake was felt as far south as Chiapas state, 500 miles southeast of Mexico City. It bounced some cars onto sidewalks along Mexico City roads.

Mexico City, one of the world's largest cities with nearly 20 million residents in the metro area, last suffered a major quake on Sept. 19, 1985 when an 8.1-magnitude quake struck and killed at least 9,500 people.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Taiwan on Sept. 21 left more than 2,000 dead and a 7.4-magnitude temblor left more than 15,000 dead in Turkey on Aug. 17.

A magnitude-6.7 quake June 15 in a sparsely populated mountain area 165 miles southwest of Mexico City killed at least 17 people and injured nearly 200. More than 7,700 homes were damaged or destroyed, mostly in Oaxaca and Puebla states.