Mexico earthquake: tsunami confirmed after 8.4 magnitude quake kills three

Guardian staff
A major 8.4 magnitude earthquake off Mexico coast sparks warning of possible tsunami
A major 8.4 magnitude earthquake off Mexico coast sparks warning of possible tsunami Photograph: via ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

A magnitude 8.4 earthquake has struck off the coast of Mexico leaving at least three dead, mass evacuations and warnings of tsunamis across the region.

The quake occurred 165km west of the state of Chiapas just before midnight on Thursday local time, and was said to be the strongest earthquake to hit the country since 1985, according to the civil protection agency.

Three people were confirmed dead in Chiapas, the governor said, as the Pacific tsunami warning centre said waves as high as 3m could strike the coast.

Initial waves were recorded at the Mexican cities of Salina Cruz, Puerto Madero and Huatulco between 0.3 and 0.7 metres over tide level.

They predicted waves between 0.3 and 1 metres for the Cook Islands, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guatemala and Kiribati.

Waves below 0.3 metres were forecast for countries as far as Australia, Japan and Vietnam.

The tsunami threat to Hawaii was still under evaluation, said the warning centre.

In Mexico, civil protection officials were checking for damage in Chiapas, but the quake was so powerful that it frightened residents in Mexico City more than 1,000 kms (650 miles) away. People fled apartment buildings, often in their pyjamas, and gathered in groups in the street.

Around midnight buildings swayed strongly for more than minute, loosening light fixtures from ceilings.

Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, told the Associated Press his house “moved like chewing gum” with the quake.

The governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco, said the rooves of homes and a shopping center had collapsed in San Cristobal.

“Hospitals have lost energy,” he said. “Homes, schools and hospitals have been affected.”

In Guatemala, the president, Jimmy Morales, said he had reports of an unconfirmed death near the border with Mexico in San Marcos state.

“We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have details,” he Morales said.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, said such as quake was to be expected.

“Off the west coast of Mexico is what’s called the subduction zone, the Pacific Plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula,” she said.

In Mexico City, helicopters crisscrossed the sky with spotlights. Some neighbourhoods had electricity while others were in darkness.

People react on a street in downtown Mexico City after an earthquake of magnitude 8.4 struck southern Mexico.
People react on a street in downtown Mexico City after an earthquake of magnitude 8.4 struck southern Mexico. Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

The Mexican seismological authority reported a series of magnitude 6 aftershocks.

More to come ...