MEXICO CITY (REUTERS, AFP) - Shaken residents slept in cars and on the streets of Mexico’s famed Acapulco beach resort early on Wednesday (Sept 8), as a series of strong aftershocks rippled through the city after a powerful earthquake that killed one man.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit 17.7km northeast of Acapulco in southwestern Guerrero state late on Tuesday. It damaged the control tower at the beach resort’s international airport, cracked walls in a hospital attending Covid-19 patients and triggered landslides and gas leaks.
However, the quake did not cause major destruction, according to initial reports by authorities.
In Acapulco, dozens of cars lined the beachfront promenade, a witness said, with more joining after a big aftershock struck shortly before daybreak.
Mexico’s National Seismological Service reported nearly a hundred aftershocks, including one that measured 5.2 on the Richter scale.
A video shared by local disaster authorities shortly after the initial quake showed a cloudy night sky lit by lightning flashes as water sloshed from a hillside swimming pool in the city made famous by Hollywood stars in the 1950s.
The shaking threw belongings off shelves and swung light fittings in people’s homes in other videos on social media.
“We were in shock,” said Ms Andrea del Valle, who was sitting on a pavement with her partner after rushing out of a cinema. “There were no earthquake alarms, so we felt it when it was already happening.”
Guerrero state governor Hector Astudillo told local television that a man was killed by a falling post in Coyuca de Benitez, a small town just west of Acapulco.
At one hotel entrance, a large metal pole crushed a car. The airport remained closed and several roads into the city were blocked by landslides, authorities said.
The authorities reported a gas leak at a cafe as well as damage to a hotel and a public hospital.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the earthquake had not caused major damages in Guerrero, the neighbouring region of Oaxaca, Mexico City, or any other areas. Acapulco is roughly 370km from Mexico City.
In the central Roma Sur neighbourhood of Mexico City, lights went off and scared residents rushed out, some wearing little more than their pyjamas, a witness said. Residents hurdled together in the rain, holding young children or pets.
Southern and central Mexico is frequently hit by earthquakes. A big one in September 1985 and two in September 2017 prompted so many in the country to wonder if the month is more prone to tremors that a government pamphlet was issued to dispel the myth.
"It was terrible. It really reminds me of the 1985 quake every time something like this happens," said Roma Sur resident Yesmin Rizk, 70.
He was referring to the 8.1-magnitude quake in Mexico City on Sept 19, 1985, that killed more than 10,000 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
On the anniversary of that earthquake in 2017, a 7.1 quake left around 370 people dead, mainly in the capital.
Bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Mexico is one of the most seismically active places in the world, sitting atop five tectonic plates including three major ones.
The US Geological Survey said Tuesday’s quake, initially measured at a magnitude of 7.4 and later downgraded to 7.0, was relatively shallow, less than 20km below the surface, which would have amplified the shaking effect.
Mexican state power utility the Comision Federal de Electricidad said in a statement 1.6 million users had been affected by the quake in Mexico City, the adjacent state of Mexico, and the states of Guerrero, Morelos and Oaxaca.