Mexico, Sep 10: Sixty-five people are now reported dead across three states in southern Mexico after the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck off the country’s southern Pacific coast just before midnight Thursday.
Oaxaca recorded the highest toll with 46 deaths, mainly in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Thirty-seven of the fatalities were in Juchitán where the quake damaged around 1,000 homes and destroyed 50% of the 157-year-old municipal headquarters building. There are fears that people could be trapped beneath rubble.
The city’s general hospital was also badly damaged, forcing the relocation of almost 100 patients.
President Enrique Peña Nieto toured the city yesterday alongside local Mayor Gloria Sánchez and state Governor Alejandro Murat. The president declared three days of national mourning and announced that the emergency strategy known as Plan Mx had been activated.
In Chiapas, the number of victims has risen to 15 across four municipalities. The quake’s epicenter was 87 kilometers off the coast near the town of Pijijiapan. The Mexican seismological authority said that it occurred at a depth of 19 kilometers.
The other state to suffer fatalities was Tabasco, where the deaths of four people have been confirmed, including two children. One died in hospital after a power outage cut a ventilator’s air supply while the other minor died after a wall collapsed.
A man buried under the rubble of a collapsed store has also been confirmed dead, bringing the state’s toll to four.
More than 250 people have also been reported injured by the massive earthquake, Mexico’s largest in at least a century.
“The strength of nature can be devastating but the strength of the state and the solidarity of Mexicans is far greater,” Peña Nieto wrote on his Twitter account.
He stated that reestablishing water and food supplies along with treating the injured were priorities. Aid packages have started arriving at affected areas.
The Defense Secretariat said this morning the first aid shipment — more than 46 tonnes of emergency supplies — had been delivered by six planes to the military base in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, for distribution in the Isthmus region. Passengers on the planes included 25 military engineers and 10 military police dogs trained in search and rescue.
More than 1,000 schools sustained structural damage and close to 2 million people were left without power, the Federal Electricity Commission said. However, it said service has been restored to around 90% of those affected.
Military elements have been deployed to affected areas — 2,000 to Oaxaca — while a contingent of 150 Federal Police officers has also arrived with search and rescue dogs to contribute to recovery efforts.
At least 100 of the homes that were destroyed in Juchitán were regarded as historical buildings for their traditional architecture. A former mayor described their loss as a blow to the region’s “identity and cultural essence.”
Finance Secretary José Antonio Meade said the federal government was analyzing whether an additional US $150-million emergency fund could be accessed to assist victims but highlighted that resources from a 9-billion-peso (US $509-million) disaster fund would be available and he proposed adding a further 6 billion pesos to it.
While the quake was felt strongly in Mexico City, none of the city’s key infrastructure was damaged, Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera reported. However, an overpass that was under construction on the new Pirámides-Texcoco highway in adjoining México state collapsed. No one was hurt.
More than 500 aftershocks have been recorded since the quake, the strongest reaching a 6.1-magnitude and tsunami warnings also followed. Thousands of people were evacuated from coastal areas but waves triggered by the quake caused no damage.
Seismologists and other experts told a press conference yesterday there had been a tsunami “of relative importance” with waves of up to three meters. But they were not all that big considering the magnitude of the quake, said Jorge Zavala of the National Mareographic Service of the National Autonomous University.
The highest waves were recorded in Chiapas, he said.