Mexican quake death toll rises to 90

Residents in a neighbourhood struck by mudslides that were set off by heavy rains after storm Katia swept through Xalapa city in Veracruz last Saturday. Two major catastrophes just days apart have left Mexico reeling from the punch.
Residents in a neighbourhood struck by mudslides that were set off by heavy rains after storm Katia swept through Xalapa city in Veracruz last Saturday. Two major catastrophes just days apart have left Mexico reeling from the punch.PHOTO: REUTERS

JUCHITAN DE ZARAGOZA (Mexico) • Rescuers pulled bodies from the rubble, while grieving families carried coffins through the streets over the weekend after Mexico's biggest earthquake in a century killed 90 people.

Officials raised the death toll from last Thursday night's quake after the southern state of Oaxaca confirmed more fatalities.

In the town of Juchitan, hundreds of families spent the night camped outside in the streets, too scared to go back inside for fear of aftershocks. The Mexican National Seismological Service reported 721 aftershocks.

Last Saturday, people in Juchitan queued up for food at a shop window as families carried flowers and wreaths and eventually coffins.

Mr Ignacio Chavez said his son had died in the quake.

"He didn't have time to get out, and the building completely collapsed," said Mr Chavez.

"It was a very old building, over 200 years old, and unfortunately, of the seven people who were inside, only four were able to be rescued. The other three died."

  • DEVASTATING SCALE

  • 8.2

    Magnitude of Thursday's quake.

  • 721

    Number of aftershocks.

The authorities raised the overall death toll to at least 90 after emergency services in Oaxaca said late last Saturday that the state alone had seen 71 confirmed fatalities.

At least 15 people died in the neighbouring state of Chiapas, according to the local authorities, while another four deaths have been confirmed in the state of Tabasco to the north.

President Enrique Pena Nieto described the quake as "the largest registered in our country in at least the past 100 years" - stronger even than a devastating earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people in Mexico City in 1985.

The local seismology service measured the quake at magnitude 8.2. The United States Geological Survey measured it at 8.1 - the same magnitude as the 1985 disaster.

The epicentre of the quake was in the Pacific Ocean, about 100km off the town of Tonala in Chiapas. Agence France-Presse reporters there saw residents salvaging belongings from their ruined houses.

"All my body is shaking," said local resident Roberto Olivera, 39.

"Every time a car passes by, I feel like it's an earthquake," he added.

Mr Pena Nieto earlier toured Juchitan, where the streets are a maze of rubble, with roofs, cables, insulation and concrete chunks scattered everywhere. He said the authorities were working to "restore water and food supplies and provide medical attention to those affected".

Meanwhile, storm Katia made landfall in the neighbouring state of Veracruz as a Category 1 hurricane. It was later downgraded to a tropical storm, before petering out last Saturday.

In Xalapa, the capital of the eastern state of Veracruz, "two people died in mudslides" that had been triggered by the rainstorm.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Mexican quake death toll rises to 90'. Print Edition | Subscribe