A powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico late Thursday, killing at least five people and triggering a tsunami alert in what the president called the quake-prone country’s biggest one in a century.
Officials evacuated residents along the central and southern Pacific coast as seismologists warned a tsunami of more than three meters could be headed toward land, affecting coastal towns as far south as Ecuador.
The quake hit offshore in the Pacific at 11:49 p.m., about 100 kilometers from the coastal town of Tonala, in far southern Chiapas state, Mexico’s seismologic service said, giving an updated magnitude of 8.2.
“It was a major earthquake in scale and magnitude, the strongest in the past 100 years,” said President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The US Geological Survey put the magnitude slightly lower, at 8.1. That is the same as a devastating 1985 earthquake in Mexico City that killed more than 10,000 people — the quake-prone country’s most destructive ever.
Peña Nieto said three people were killed in collapsing buildings in Chiapas.
In neighboring Tabasco state, two children were killed, the governor said.
One was crushed by a collapsing wall.
The other, an infant on a respirator, died after the power went out.
Map showing the epicenter of a 8.1-magnitude quake that hit the coast of Mexico late Thursday and countries in the Americas with tsunami warning.
A hotel collapsed and several houses were damaged in Juchitan, in the state of Oaxaca, but no fatalities were reported there.
The president downplayed the tsunami threat, saying it was “not a major risk at this time.”
But coastal communities were on alert across a warning area that stretched through the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, all the way down to Ecuador.