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Intense Earthquake in Mexico Damages Hundreds of Homes

By Mark Fineman
Los Angeles Times

A powerful earthquake killed at least one person, injured dozens and damaged hundreds of homes in southern Mexico Thursday after it hit 190 miles southeast of the Mexican capital - where it caused panic but little damage nearly 10 years to the day after a massive quake ravaged the city.

Officials in the three towns closest to the epicenter in the mountainous state of Guerrero reported extensive damage to the region's homes, most of them one-story adobe structures. In the town of Ometepec, which lies closest to the epicenter, an official said one man was killed when he was crushed under a wall of his home.

Radio stations in Mexico City reported two dead in Guerrero, and the government-owned news agency Notimex reported four deaths in the region. Those reports could not be confirmed.

Scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico's seismology center measured the quake at 7.3; U.S. seismologists in Golden, Colo., recorded it at 7.2. But scientists in both places agreed that the quake's intensity - at least 10 times less than the 8.1 tremor of 1985 - its depth and the sparse population at the epicenter accounted for the relatively minimal damage.

"It was amazing - very strong but only localized damage," said Arturo Roman, a lawyer with the Human Rights Center of the Mountains near the epicenter, speaking by telephone as aftershocks continued in his region. "But there was panic everywhere. I would say there wasn't a single person in the whole town who was calm."

Officials near the epicenter estimated damage in their area in the millions of dollars.

In Mexico City, where a sophisticated alarm system gave many of the 20 million residents nearly a minute's warning of the quake, the temblor shattered windows, crumbled plaster, felled power lines and left people traumatized. The Red Cross and city officials reported only isolated, minor injuries and no major damage in the rolling quake.