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Powerful earthquake hits western Mexico, at least 2 dead

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The epicenter of the earthquake (Credit: Google)

A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake has struck western Mexico, killing at least two people on the anniversary of two devastating earthquakes, local officials say. It happened just over an hour after a nationwide earthquake preparedness drill.

The earthquake, which struck at 1:05 p.m. local time on Monday, was centered about 37 kilometers (23 miles) southeast of Aquila, a town in the Mexican state of Michoacán. It struck 15 kilometers (9 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake.

Mexico’s seismological agency put the magnitude of Monday’s earthquake at 7.7, up from an initial estimate of 6.8. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the magnitude lower, at 7.6.

Residents near the epicenter reported strong shaking which lasted at least 20 seconds and there were early reports of structural damage, including two shopping malls in Manzanillo which partially collapsed. A hospital was also damaged.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said one person was confirmed to have died when a facade collapsed at one of the malls in Manzanillo. A second person was killed at the other mall, where a gym partially collapsed.

Electricity and internet outages were reported in the aftermath of Monday’s earthquake, limiting the flow of information.

Buildings also shook in Mexico City, prompting residents to run into the streets, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage or injuries in the nation’s capital, Governor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center immediately issued a tsunami alert for nearby coastlines, but the Mexican government initially disputed this, saying sea level changes were not expected due to the location of the epicenter.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said small tsunami waves were recorded at several locations along Mexico’s Pacific coast, most notably in the port city of Manzanillo, where several streets were flooded.

Monday’s earthquake came just an hour after a nationwide earthquake preparedness drill, which took place on the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that struck the coast of Michoacan, causing widespread damage and killing at least 10,000 people. It’s also the anniversary of an earthquake in 2017 that killed 370 people.

Mexico sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin which is prone to large earthquakes. A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico in September 2017, causing widespread damage and killing at least 370 people.

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