Nearly three dozen people have been confirmed dead after Mexico was rocked by the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in 100 years late Thursday, resulting in a massive tremor that leveled parts of southern Mexico and was felt by about 50 million people across the country.
The once-in-a-lifetime quake had a magnitude of 8.2 and its epicenter somewhere off the southern coast of Mexico, but it was so powerful that it set off alarms as far north as Mexico City, the nation’s capital, the New York Times reported. There, residents ran into the street as windows broke and walls collapsed.
However, the bulk of the damage is expected to have occurred in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, where government officials have been hurrying to assess the damage and rescue residents who may still be alive but buried under the rubble of buildings.
According to Luis Manuel García Moreno, the secretary of civil defense in Chiapas, seven residents have been confirmed dead, while Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat confirmed that at least 23 residents had perished. Two children in the state of Tabasco were killed, one by a falling wall and another after a respirator lost power in a hospital.
“We are assessing the damage, which will probably take hours, if not days,” said President Enrique Peña Nieto during an address that took place only hours after the earthquake struck. “But the population is safe over all. There should not be a major sense of panic.”
Peña Nieto also warned that despite a tsunami warning off the coast of Chiapas and Oaxaca, aftershocks would pose a greater danger than waves in the hours and days following the initial earthquake.
Neighboring Guatemala was also affected by the earthquake, which has been blamed for at least one death and saw homes across its border with Mexico get destroyed.