Deadly earthquake rattles southern Mexico
A powerful earthquake struck Mexico's southern Oaxaca region on Tuesday, 23 June 2020, killing at six people and shaking buildings hundreds of miles away. The 7,4-magnitude quake struck mid-morning, according to the US Geological Survey. Its epicentre was off the Pacific coast about seven miles southwest of Santa María Zapotitlán, near the beach resort of Huatuco. Rock falls blocked the mountain roads in the region, cutting off isolated villages. The state-run oil company, State-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), said one of its workers fell from a refinery structure to his death and the quake caused a fire at its 330 000 barrels-per-day Salina Cruz refinery in Oaxaca causing them to shut production. The fire was controlled by fire fighters. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said 147 aftershocks had been reported by noon. The quake was felt in several states and triggered seismic alarms in Mexico City, sending residents there onto the streets.
President Obrador said one person was killed and another injured in a building collapse in Huatulco, Oaxaca. Otherwise, he said reports were of minor damage, including broken windows and collapsed walls. Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat later said a second person was killed in an apparent house collapse in the tiny mountain village of San Juan Ozolotepec and said a third died in circumstances he did not explain.
Federal Civil Defence authorities reported that a man died in the Oaxaca village of San Agustin Amatengo when a wall fell on him. Churches, bridges and highways also suffered damage during the quake.
Inside a Mexico City military barracks converted to COVID-19 hospital, medical staff suited in protective equipment tried to calm anxious patients. Unable to evacuate isolation areas, patients huddled under a large beam in the women's ward while a nurse tried to calm one having a panic attack.
Teresa Juárez could only wish for it to pass quickly from her hospital bed where she lay connected to oxygen. Diabetic and with high blood pressure, Juárez said she thought about her five children. It's horrible, you're here and you don't know what to do, she said.
This has the potential to be a deadly earthquake and cause significant damage, USGS seismologist Paul Earle said. This area is capable of and has had larger earthquakes in the past. This quake happened when the Cocos plate, which is to the southwest of the area, slipped under the North American plate, Earle said. You've got all sorts of plates and they're moving quickly, Earle said. The important thing is how fast the plates are moving relative to each other.
The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially said hazardous waves as high as three metres could strike anywhere within 1 000 kilometres of the quake's epicentre, affecting the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central and South America. However, a few hours later it said the threat had largely passed.
This is not the first large earthquake to jolt the area in recent years. In September 2017, an 8,1 magnitude quake struck off the southern coast, killing at least 60 people. The US Geological Survey said that Tuesday's earthquake was near the northern end of the aftershock distribution of the 2017 event.
Sources: NPR, CGTN