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Updated: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:04:53 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake hits Mexico



The earthquake's epicentre was in Guerrero state, northwest of the Pacific resort town of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are currently spending the Easter long weekend. Google Maps

The earthquake's epicentre was in Guerrero state, northwest of the Pacific resort town of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are currently spending the Easter long weekend. Google Maps

A powerful, magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake hit at about 9:30 a.m. and was centred northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday.

The quake was felt strongly in the resort city, as well as in Mexico's capital and at least six other states. Around the region, there were reports of isolated and minor damage, such as fallen fences, trees and broken windows. 

The quake struck 273 kilometres southwest of Mexico City, which shook for at least 30 seconds. Mexico City itself is vulnerable even to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds that quiver as quake waves hit.

The USGS initially calculated the quake's magnitude at 7.5, but later downgraded it to 7.2.​ the quake's centre was 24 kilometres deep.

The U.S. Pacific Warning Center said it did not expect the quake to trigger a destructive tsunami.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said there small power outages from fallen transformers but officials were working to restore the service.

In Acapulco, 59-year-old Enedina Ramirez Perez was having breakfast, enjoying the holiday with about 20 family members, when her hotel started to shake.

"People were turning over chairs in their desperation to get out, grabbing children, trampling people," the Mexico City woman said. "The hotel security was excellent and starting calming people down. They got everyone to leave quietly."

Civil protection officials were patrolling the city to check for damage and casualties.

"There are some broken windows, but so far we have no dead or injured," said Ricardo de la Cruz, director general of the Civil Protection Agency.

In many cases of earthquakes in Mexico, it can take time to receive word from remote areas near the epicentre, where damage could be more extensive. There were no early reports of serious damage or injuries near the epicenter in Tecpan de Galeana.

"There is a crisis of panic," said Alicia Dominguez, who answered the phone at the civil protection office. "It's mainly the tourists who are shaken."

Friday's quake occurred along a section of the Pacific Coast known as the Guerrero Seismic Gap, a 200-kilometre section where tectonic plates meet and have been locked, meaning huge amounts of energy are being stored up with potentially devastating effects, said USGS seismologist Gavin Hayes.

The last large quake that occurred along the section was a magnitude-7.6 temblor in 1911, Hayes said.

He said scientists will be watching the area more intensely because moderate quakes such as Friday's can destabilize the surrounding sections of seismic plate and increase the chance of a more powerful temblor.

"This is really strong," said Gabriel Alejandro Hernandez Chavez, 45, an apartment building guard in central Mexico City. "And I'm accustomed to earthquakes."

The magnitude-8.1 quake in 1985 that killed at least 6,000 people and destroyed many buildings in Mexico City was centred 400 kilometres away on the Pacific Coast.

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