A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and killing dozens of people on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City.
Comingless than two weeks after a deadly temblor off the country's Pacific coast, and just hours after a siren signaled an annual earthquake drill in the capital, Tuesday's quake shook the ground with terrifying force, buckling walls and sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets. There were reports of fires and gas leaks.
Atleast 139 people were reported killed, local officials and news agencies reported. They included 64 people in Morelos state south of Mexico City, 29 in the state of Puebla, one in Guerrero state, nine in the state of Mexico - which surrounds the capital - and 36 in Mexico City.
Residents feared more people were buried under rubble. At least 44 buildings collapsed or partly collapsed in the quake, accordingto Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera. In the central Mexico City neighborhood of Del Valle, a frantic scene played out Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of people gathered to search for trapped residents. At least two multistory apartment buildings fell, and residents said dozens of peoplecould have been inside. Marines, medical volunteers and regular citizens formed lines to pass trash cans, plastic crates, and plastic barrels to remove debris.
Rescue workers carried at least one person out on a stretcher while helicopters circled.
Elsewhere, dozens of people were rescued from collapsed buildings.
TheU.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 76 miles southeast of the capital, near the town of Raboso in Puebla. (The epicenter is the point on the earth's surface directly above where the earthquake occurs.) The quake struck at 1:14 p.m. local time, the agencysaid. There appeared to be widespread damage, including to a major highway connecting Mexico City to Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos, about 35 miles to the south. Authorities closed the Mexico City airport to inspect it for damage.
The USGS's model for estimating earthquake damage predicts 100 to 1,000 fatalities and economic losses of between $100 million and $1 billion for a temblor of this scale and proximity to population centers.
President Enrique Pena Nieto was traveling to Oaxaca to inspect the earthquake damage that occurred earlier this month when the latest temblor struck. He turned around and returned to the capital, where he convened a national emergency council.