Mexico quake kills 21

News and Press Release
Originally published
A powerful earthquake rocked west-central Mexico late Tuesday (Jan. 21), killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 160 others. As damage assessments continued on Wednesday, government officials warned the death toll could rise as rescue crews moved into remote areas.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the quake occurred in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Colima at 8:06 p.m. local time (9:06 p.m. EST). The agency initially reported a magnitude of 7.3 but revised the number after additional calculations, increasing the level to a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

"This is the largest earthquake in this general area since a magnitude 8.0 event on October 9, 1995," the U.S. Geological Survey said. "The 1995 earthquake killed at least 49 people and caused extensive damage in Colima and Jalisco."

The National Seismological Center in Mexico City calculated a slightly lower magnitude of 7.6.

While the two seismology centers differ on the exact strength of the temblor, both stressed that any earthquake above a 7.0 magnitude is capable of widespread devastation, and Tuesday's was no exception.

The temblor sent panicked residents in the states of Colima, Michoacan and Jalisco spilling into the streets, caused mass power outages and triggered heavy landslides. According to eyewitnesses, the rattle lasted less than a minute, but was strong enough to sway buildings in Mexico City, more than 300 miles away from the quake's epicenter.

Colima Gov. Fernando Moreno Pena said 19 people were killed in the quake, nine in the capital city of Colima and 10 others elsewhere in his state, and dozens were injured. Local news outlets reported that most of the victims were killed when portions of office and residential buildings collapsed near the center of Colima City.

In neighboring Jalisco state, civil defense authorities reported two deaths in the town of Zapotitlan, including that of a one-year-old infant. In Guadalajara, Jalisco's capital and Mexico's second-largest city, authorities said the earthquake destroyed at least 40 homes, leaving more than 100 people homeless.

Shortly after the quake on Tuesday, President Vicente Fox ordered the military to search for damages across the region and to offer aid to those affected, and dispatched small aircraft to remote areas the following day. While the President's office reported that initial surveys found only power outages, a complete report of damages was not expected until late Wednesday.

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