One of the most powerful earthquakes to strike Mexico has hit, killing at least 32 people, toppling buildings and sending panicked people into the streets.
At least 32 people have been killed in a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the country’s southern coast, causing cracks in buildings and triggering a small tsunami.
The quake just before midnight on Thursday was apparently stronger than a devastating 1985 temblor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands but this time, damage to the city was limited.
A number of buildings suffered severe damage in parts of southern Mexico.
Some of the worst initial reports came from the town of Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where sections of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble.
Alejandro Murat, the state governor, said 23 deaths were registered in Oaxaca, 17 of them in Juchitan.
A spokesman for emergency services said seven people were also confirmed dead in the neighbouring state of Chiapas.
Earlier, the governor of Tabasco, Arturo Nunez, said two children had died in his state.
The US Geological Survey said the 8.1 magnitude quake had its epicentre in the Pacific Ocean, 87km southwest of the town of Pijijiapan in the impoverished southern state of Chiapas, at a depth of 69km.
Rescue workers laboured through the night in badly affected areas to check for people trapped in collapsed buildings.
Windows were shattered at Mexico City airport and power went out in several neighbourhoods of the capital, affecting more than one million people.
The tremor was felt as far away as neighbouring Guatemala.
The quake triggered waves as high as 0.7m in Mexico, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
Mexican television showed images of the sea retreating about 50m and authorities evacuated some coastal areas.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said the tsunami risk on the Chiapas coast was not major.
More aftershocks were likely, the president said, advising people to check their homes and offices for structural damage and for gas leaks.
The USGS reported multiple aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 4.3 to 5.7.
Classes were suspended in most of central and southern Mexico on Friday to allow authorities to review damage.
There was no tsunami threat for American Samoa and Hawaii, according to the US Tsunami Warning System.
The Bureau of Meteorology said there was no tsunami threat for Australia while New Zealand issued a beach tsunami warning for some parts but no evacuations were necessary.
People in Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities, ran out into the streets in pyjamas and alarms sounded after the quake struck, a Reuters witness said.
“I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first I laughed but when the lights went out, I didn’t know what to do,” said Luis Carlos Briceno, an architect, 31, who was visiting Mexico City.
“I nearly fell over.”