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Magnitude 7.5 Quake Shakes Mexico, Eight Reported Dead

Los Angeles Times -- mexico city, mexico

A powerful earthquake rocked Mexico on Thursday, killing eight people, shaking buildings in the capital to their foundations and sending frightened office-workers scurrying into the streets.

In the most affected areas in the southern state of Oaxaca, roofs crumbled, roads were damaged and electricity was cut in what was thought to be the most powerful quake to hit Mexico for 14 years.

The quake, which lasted for 42 seconds, was felt at about 11:31 a.m. (12:31 p.m. EDT) and measured a preliminary 7.5 on the open-ended Richter scale, the U.S. geological survey said.

The epicenter was close to the coast, 35 miles north-northwest of Puerto Angel, in the state of Oaxaca, 310 miles southeast of Mexico City, the survey said.

It was believed to be the most powerful quake to strike Mexico since 1985 when a pair of huge quakes killed up to 10,000 people, mainly in the capital. Those registered 8.1 and 7.3 on the Richter scale.

The governor of Oaxaca, Jose Murat, told the Televisa network network that five people were killed in the city of Oaxaca, at least one of them by falling masonry.

Police later reported that a 13-year-old girl died of shock in the seaside resort of Puerto Escondido, just nine miles from the quake's epicenter, where some 20 people were also injured.

“People ran out into the streets of Puerto Escondido terrified. It was very strong,” local police officer Pedro Ramon Moreno told Reuters by telephone.

The quake crumpled roofs, tore bridges in two and damaged roads, he said.

A Red Cross official said 23 others had been injured in Oaxaca.

“I am very worried about Oaxaca... we are activating the whole civil defense apparatus as always,” President Ernesto Zedillo said of the state, one of Mexico's poorest.

The quake’s strength suggested it was capable of causing extensive damage and loss of life in densely populated areas.

But by evening, the damage looked to have been well short of the devastation meted out by the quakes that have hit Turkey, Greece and Taiwan in the last two months.

Television networks reported that in Mexico City, one person died of a heart attack apparently brought on by the quake. A women was also reported killed when she ran panic-stricken out of her home in Cordoba, in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, and cracked her skull in a fall.

State news agency Notimex said electricity in the city of Oaxaca was completely cut off and there was damage to buildings.

Sandra Ramos, a journalist at the Oaxaca newspaper El Imparcial, said some schools were damaged and several fires broke out.

Hundreds of holiday-makers in the coastal resort of Huatulco rushed out of their hotels as the quake hit but there were no reports of damage, Notimex said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Tsunami Warning Center initially issued “an advisory” for a possible tidal surge on the west coast of the United States, but later withdrew this warning.

In Mexico City, a helicopter broadcasting live images showed no signs of serious damage to buildings.