The death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck central Mexico on Tuesday has risen to over 200.
Fatalities were reported in Mexico City, nearby Morelos and Puebla states, the State of Mexico and the south-central state of Guerrero, according to the head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, Luis Felipe Puente.
The toll is expected to climb as many people remain trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings.
According to the US Geological Survey, the epicenter of the 7.1-magnitude quake was located 5km from Raboso, Puebla.
Its proximity to the capital and its shallowness, just 51km below ground, made the quake as intense as the destructive 8.2-magnitude temblor that hit southern Mexico on September 7, which was reportedly the strongest to devastate the country in a century.
Nearly 30 buildings collapsed in the capital. Television footage showed the normally placid canals of the city’s Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, a popular tourist attraction, churning with waves, and boats tossed about as if on the high seas.
Barely two hours before the quake struck, a nationwide earthquake drill marked the 32nd anniversary of a deadly quake that killed thousands in 1985.
Hours later people were scrambling out of buildings once again as seismic waves violently swayed light fixtures, knocked down plaster and caused water in fish tanks and coffee makers to spill out.
Mexico City’s subway system suffered a 10-minute power outage that interrupted service for some 40 minutes following the quake. Commuters in stations were told to stand close to the walls and stay put until station officials were able to review the facilities.
Officials later announced the subway was offering free service, possibly to keep cars off the streets to make way for emergency vehicles.
The quake also damaged some roads. A segment of the highway linking Mexico City to the nearest beach, the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, collapsed between the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos, and Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico’s Federal Police reported.
Rocks and debris knocked onto the Santa Barbara-Izucar de Matamoros Highway, narrowing it into a single lane.
Classes at all levels have been suspended until further notice in all of the affected regions.
Search and rescue efforts continue