A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.4 struck southern Mexico’s Pacific coast on Tuesday, killing at least four people and cutting off isolated villages, and causing tremors hundreds of miles away in Mexico City.
The fatalities were near the quake’s epicenter in Oaxaca, a mountainous state known for its coffee, mescal and Spanish colonial architecture.
Rockfalls blocked the winding mountain roads between the state capital of Oaxaca city and the coast. A clinic and other buildings in hill villages near the epicenter were severely damaged, images on social media showed.
The dead included a worker from state oil company Pemex, who suffered a bad fall, Mexico’s civil protection agency said. Pemex was forced to briefly shutter the country’s biggest oil refinery in Oaxaca.
Buildings hundreds of miles away in Mexico City shook strongly and people ran out into the streets when an early warning seismic alarm sounded. Two people were injured and more than 30 buildings in the capital suffered damage, officials said.
Videos on social media showed water that apparently came from rooftop pools cascading down residential buildings.
Several old churches in Oaxaca were damaged, including one with a dome at risk of collapse, the protection agency said.
Miguel Candelaria, 30, was working at his computer in his family home in the Oaxaca town of Juchitan when the ground began to tremble. He ran outside with relatives, but they had to stop in the middle of the street as the pavement buckled and rocked.
“We couldn’t walk… the street was like chewing gum,” said Candelaria, 30.
Quakes of magnitudes over 7 are major earthquakes capable of widespread, heavy damage. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico in 2017 killed 355 people in the capital and the surrounding states.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had warned that the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central and South America faced a possible tsunami but later said the danger had passed.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of Tuesday’s quake was located 69 km (43 miles) northeast of the town of Pochutla.
It was very shallow, only 26 km (16 miles) below the earth’s surface, which would have amplified the shaking.
Near to the epicenter, Magdalena Castellanos Fermin was in the village of Santiago Astata when the quake struck, sending large rocks tumbling down from the hillside and alarming residents, she told Reuters by telephone.
“It was really intense, really strong,” she said.