The number of people killed in a devastating earthquake that struck Mexico City and nearby regions on Tuesday has risen to 138, the government said according to AFP.
The figure was a sharp jump over the 105 deaths previously given by the government disaster response agency CENAPRED.
“A total of 138 people have sadly lost their lives,” the director of the government’s civil protection service, Luis Felipe Puente, told the Televisa television network.
He said there were 36 deaths in Mexico City and the rest in regions just to the south and the west of it.
Morelos state, directly south of the capital, suffered 64 deaths.
Puebla, to the southeast, had 29 deaths. And nine people died in Mexico state, which lies just to the west of Mexico City.
The 7.1 magnitude earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing hundreds of people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.
Scores of buildings collapsed into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states.
The quake is the deadliest in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake left 90 dead in the country’s south.
At one site, reporters saw onlookers cheer as a woman was pulled from the rubble. Rescuers immediately called for silence so that they could listen for others who might be trapped.
The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent people throughout the city fleeing from homes and offices, and many people remained in the streets for hours, fearful of returning to the structures.
Alarms blared and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument on the iconic Reforma Avenue.
Electricity and cellphone service was interrupted in many areas and traffic was snarled as signal lights went dark.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 hit at 1:14 pm (9:41 pm Mecca) and it was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 123 kilometers southeast of Mexico City.
Puebla Gov. Tony Gali tweeted that there had been damaged buildings in the city of Cholula including collapsed church steeples.
Earlier in the day workplaces across the city held readiness drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.0 shake, which killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of Mexico City.
In that tragedy, too, ordinary citizens played a crucial role in rescue efforts that overwhelmed officials.
Market stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she was in a taxi a few blocks away when the quake struck. She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.
Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city’s normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.
Mexico City’s international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for any damage.
Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.
The new quake appears to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit Sept. 7 off Mexico’s southern coast and which also was felt strongly in the capital.
US Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted that the epicenters of the two quakes are 650 kilometers apart and most aftershocks are within 100 kilometers.
There have been 19 earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or larger within 250 kilometers of Tuesday’s quake in the past century, Earle said.
Earth usually has about 15 to 20 earthquakes this size or larger each year, Earle said.
Initial calculations show that more than 30 million people would have felt moderate shaking from Tuesday’s quake. The US Geological Survey predicts “significant casualty and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread.”
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