The powerful earthquake that shook southern Mexico on Tuesday now has at least six deaths, including a worker at the country’s largest oil refinery, according to authorities.
The 7.4 magnitude earthquake occurred at 11:20 in the morning near the tourist center of Huatulco, in southern Mexico, damaging hundreds of homes and four archaeological sites.
“We lost everything in a moment to nature,” said Vicente Romero, the owner of a stationery store in the tourist town of La Crucecita, who told Reuters his house suffered structural damage. “This is our life’s work.”
MAGNITUDE 7.4 EARTHQUAKE SMELLS OF MEXICO, AT LEAST 2 DEAD IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF COLLAPSES
The National Civil Protection Center said that just before midnight a sixth fatality was reported in the southern state of Oaxaca, the epicenter of the earthquake where at least 500 homes were damaged.
Among the dead was a worker at Mexico’s largest oil refinery who fell from one of the plant’s structures, according to the civil protection agency.
The tremor also caused a fire in the plant that caused a brief closure.
“A small fire broke out and was immediately controlled,” a Pemex spokesperson told Reuters.
Mountain roads were blocked by landslides, while churches, bridges and roads were also damaged during the earthquake.
In Huatulco, a quiet beach destination known for surfing and small sheltered coves, the earthquake knocked goods off the shelves and some rubble from buildings.
THE “RING OF FIRE” EXPLAINED
At least six people were injured, including two in Mexico City, more than 300 miles north of the epicenter, where the quake sent tens of thousands of people to flee to the streets.
Authorities told El Universal that at least 10 health centers, already busy fighting the coronavirus pandemic, suffered damage from the tremors. Eight hospitals scattered along the coast in Oaxaca were the most severely affected.
“Unfortunately, the earthquake was significant enough to cause damage to roofs, doors, facilities, and walls, but the reports I have so far are that there is no structural damage,” said deputy director of Oaxaca Health Services, Juan Carlos Marquez Heine. plug.
Hundreds of aftershocks have been reported and the damage is still being evaluated. It was felt in Guatemala and throughout southern and central Mexico.
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On Wednesday in Vatican City, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the earthquake.
“Yesterday, a violent earthquake shook southern Mexico, causing victims, injuries and enormous damage. Let us pray for them. May the help of God and our brothers give you strength and support. Brothers and sisters, I am very close to you, ”she said in her weekly general audience.
The USGS estimated that about 2 million people felt strong or moderate tremors and another 49 million felt weak or mild tremors.
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The Pacific coast of Mexico is found along the volatile “Ring of Fire”, a series of horseshoe-shaped faults around the ocean. The region has most of the subduction zones on Earth, where oceanic plates slide under the lightest continental plates.
Earthquakes can occur when those plates scrape or sink underneath each other. In the sea, it can generate tsunamis.
The earthquake struck an earthquake-prone region of Mexico, where four underground tectonic plates meet. In the past 35 years, there have been at least seven earthquakes of magnitude 7 or more, killing about 10,000 people, most of them in a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 1985.
Associated Press contributed to this report.