LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Authorities confirmed 32 people are dead after a powerful magnitude-8.1 earthquake shook Southern Mexico, bringing down buildings and triggering tsunami warnings.
The powerful earthquake struck at about 9:50 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, about 71 miles west of Pijijiapan in southern Chiapas state, at a depth of 35 kilometers.
Buildings have collapsed, including at least one hotel, and others were badly damaged in the initial earthquake. Authorities say there have been at least 62 aftershocks, one of which was above magnitude-5.
Power was briefly knocked out for nearly 2 million people in Mexico City, and schools in the nation’s capitol, more than 250 miles away to the north, have been closed by authorities.
Mexico’s president says the quake is the strongest to hit the country in a century.
Scientists are studying how this latest quake happened. But a preliminary analysis indicates the quake was triggered by the sudden breaking or bending of the Cocos plate, which dives beneath Mexico. This type of process doesn’t happen often in subduction zones; usually, big quakes in subduction zones occur along the boundary between the sinking slab and the overriding crust.
Seismologist Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey says, “It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of.” She adds that “you get stresses on the seafloor and we know that can produce big earthquakes.”
Videos posted to social media captured street lights and store displays swaying from the quake, along with a mysterious flash in the sky.
Tsunami waves were observed in Mexico, as high 3 feet, but there was no threat to Guam, American Samoa or Hawaii, according to the National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)