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mexico tsunami

A powerful earthquake has struck off Mexico’s southern coast killing at least six people.

The 8.1-magnitude tremor was described by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as the country’s strongest in a century.

Another person also died in neighboring Guatemala, the president has said.

The earthquake, measured at 8.1 by the US Geological Survey (USGS) but higher by Mexico, struck in the Pacific, about 54 miles south-west of Pijijiapan.

A tsunami warning has been issued for Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras.

The earthquake was felt in Mexico City, with buildings swaying and people running into the street. The tremors there, about 1,000km from the epicenter, were reported to have lasted up to a minute.

President Enrique Peña Nieto said some 50 million Mexicans would have felt the tremor and that the death toll might rise.

Four deaths were reported in Mexico’s Chiapas state, near the epicenter, and two more in Tabasco state.

Severe damage was reported in southern Mexico and in western Guatemala.

Image source Wikimedia

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Social media images showed collapsed buildings in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, including in the city of the same name and in Juchitan, where the municipal palace was leveled.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that tsunami waves “reaching more than three meters above the tide level are possible along the coasts of Mexico”. There is a coastal evacuation in Chiapas state.

The earthquake struck at a depth of 70km, the USGS said.

At magnitude 8.1, the quake outstrips the deadly 1985 tremor that hit close to Mexico City and caused thousands of deaths.

The Mexican interior ministry has given the latest quake a higher magnitude, of 8.4.

More than 10 aftershocks ranging from 4.3 to 5.7 in magnitude have been recorded closer to the Mexican coast, off the town of Paredon.

President Peña Nieto warned there might be more.

He also said the Salina Cruz refinery on the southern coast had temporarily suspended operations.

Schools have been closed in 11 Mexican states.

Some electricity cuts have been reported in the capital and social media video showed lampposts swaying violently, but there are no reports of major damage there.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales appealed for calm on national TV and in a Twitter post.

“We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have exact details,” Associated Press quoted Jimmy Morales as saying.

No tsunami warning has been issued for the US west coast.

Mexico is currently also being threatened on its eastern coast by Hurricane Katia.

The category one hurricane is about 300km south-east of Tampico and has sustained winds of 140km/h the National Hurricane Center says.