Big earthquake rattles Mexico, no major damage

March 21, 2012

By Cyntia Barrera and Dave Graham

(Reuters) – A major earthquake struck Mexico on Tuesday, unleashing panic as it damaged hundreds of buildings and caused homes in the capital to bounce like “trampolines”.

Office workers fled into the street when the 7.4-magnitude quake shook Mexico City for more than a minute. Cell phone lines went down, buildings were evacuated, traffic snarled and the stock exchange had to suspend trading early.

The quake hit hardest in the southwestern state of Guerrero, where around 800 houses were damaged, officials said. The state governor Angel Aguirre said he had reports of homes being knocked down, though state authorities could not confirm this.

The tremor was one of the strongest to hit the country since the devastating 8.1-magnitude earthquake of 1985, which killed thousands in Mexico City.

Still, no deaths were reported on Tuesday and there were major disruptions to air travel or to oil installations. But it scared many residents and temporarily cut off electricity to some 2.5 million users in the capital.

Martha Suarez, an Argentine living in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood said she had never known anything like it.

“My TV set fell over, the building felt like it was on a trampoline. This one was like no other I have felt before,” Suarez said, holding her little dog close.

Scores of the houses damaged were in Ometepec, a town close to the epicenter of the quake in Guerrero, the state that is home to the popular Pacific beach resort Acapulco.

In neighboring Oaxaca, 68 mud-brick houses were damaged and at least five people were injured, one of them seriously, in the area around the town of Pinotepa Nacional near the Pacific coast, local emergency services said.

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