(AP) Strong, long 7.4 quake shakes Mexico City
By KATHERINE CORCORAN
A strong 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Tuesday, shaking central and southern parts of the country, sending a pedestrian bridge crashing atop a transit bus and swaying high-rises in Mexico City. At least one building in the capital appeared on the verge of collapse.
More than 60 homes were damaged near the epicenter in Ometepec in southern Guerrero state, though there were no reports of death or serious injury. Fear and panic spread as a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock was also felt in the capital, where there were also no reports of deaths.
Other aftershocks were felt around the borders of Oaxaca and Guerrero states close to the epicenter.
“It was very strong, very substantial,” Campos Benitez, hospital director in Ometepec.
Police radio operator Marcos Marroquin said there were preliminary reports of 60 houses damaged in the municipality but only a report of a broken arm.
In Mexico City, frightened workers and residents poured into the streets of the capital just minutes after noon local time (18:02 GMT). Telephone service was down in the city and throughout the area where the quake was felt, and some neighborhoods were without power, according to Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who set up a hotline for people to report damage.
About 40 passengers were stranded for a short time on the Mexico City airport air train, but later released. The airport closed for a time but officials said there was no runway damage and they resumed operations.
Samantha Rodriguez, a 37-year old environmental consultant, was evacuated from the 11th floor on the Angel Tower office building.
“I thought it was going to pass rapidly but the walls began to thunder and we decided to get out,” she said.
The quake was felt strongly in southern Guerrero state, where the epicenter was located about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the city of Ometepec. Neighboring Oaxaca state also shook heavily.
Governors in both states and civil protection reported strong shakes and some building damage but no casualties.
In Huajuapan, Guerrero, near the epicenter, hotel owner Marco Antonio Estrada also reported shaken-up guests but no major damage. He said it was the longest and strongest earthquake he had ever felt and people ran out of their homes and cars.
“It was very strong, but we didn’t see anything fall,” said Irma Ortiz, who runs a guesthouse in Oaxaca. She said their telephones were down, and that the quake shook them side-to-side.
The U.S. Geological Survey set the preliminary magnitude of the first quake at 7.4 and said the epicenter was 11 miles underground. The survey set the aftershock at 5.1.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia, was reported safe while on vacation with a school group in Oaxaca.
Groups of women hugged and cried at Mexico City’s Angel of Independence monument, where hundreds of people evacuated from office buildings said they had never felt such a strong earthquake. Others typed ferociously on their Blackberries.
Mexico City’s airport was closed for a short time but there was no damage to runways and operations were returning to normal.
In Oaxaca, Sylvia Valencia was teaching Spanish to five adult students at the Vinigulaza language school when the earthquake hit.
“Some of us sat down, others ran out,” she said. “It was hard, it was strong and it was long.”
After the shaking stopped, however, she said they found no damage in their own classrooms, nor outside in the historic center of the city, so they went back to class.
Celia Galicia, who works at the U.S. consular office in Oaxaca, had just flown in from Mexico City when the temblor hit.
She said there was panic in the airport, and a dash for the doors. But she said that she saw no damage at the airport and no one was hurt. She says one building in downtown Oaxaca appears to be damaged and has been evacuated.
She added that they felt two strong aftershocks, and that in downtown Oaxaca most people were out on the street.
“It started shaking badly,” she said.