DEVELOPING NEWS SEP 19 2017, 8:03 PM ET

Powerful Earthquake Shakes Mexico City, Collapses Buildings, Kills Dozens

by ELIZABETH CHUCK, DANIELLA SILVA and THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A powerful earthquake rocked Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 120 people and toppling buildings — less than two weeks after a magnitude-8.1 quake hit the country and left nearly 100 dead.

The quake struck central Mexico at about 2:15 p.m. ET and had a magnitude of 7.1, the United States Geological Survey said. Its epicenter was in the state of Puebla, about 80 miles southeast of the capital, Mexico City.

 7.1-Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Mexico City 1:57

Mexico City’s mayor told the AP that at least 30 are dead in the capital alone. Officials in Morelos state south of Mexico City said there were at least 55 deaths in the state.

At least 26 others died in Puebla state, state disaster prevention chief Carlos Valdes said, according to the AP.

And at least nine others were killed in Mexico State, Gov. Alfredo del Mazo said in a post on Twitter.

Image: Mexico earthquake
NBC News

The quake was felt far and wide. In Mexico City, there were power outages and collapsed buildings, Telemundo reported. Dozens of buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states, the Associated Press reported.

Damaged hospitals evacuated patients. Along Reforma Avenue in the capital, thousands fled office buildings as they swayed, according to the AP.

Image: People remove debris of a damaged building after a real quake rattled Mexico City
People remove debris of a damaged building after a real quake rattled Mexico City on Sept. 19, 2017 while an earthquake drill was being held in the capital. Alfredo Estrella / AFP - Getty Images

In the Mexico City neighborhood of Roma, rescue workers cheered after finding a woman alive under rubble, according to the AP. They then quieted down to listen for calls from other survivors.

Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense said 3,400 soldiers were deployed to support the region. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said 50 to 60 people were rescued alive by citizens and emergency workers.

Gala Dluzhynska told the AP she was taking a class on the second floor of a building when the quake struck, sending window and ceiling panels falling as the building began to tear apart.

She told the AP she fell in the stairs of the building and people began to walk over her until someone finally pulled her up.

“There were no stairs anymore. There were rocks,” she said.

Videos on social media showed tables and light fixtures shaking in restaurants and street signs and traffic lights quivering outside..

Electricity and cellphone service was interrupted in many areas and traffic was snarled as signal lights went dark, the AP reported.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was on a flight to Oaxaca when the quake struck and said in a tweet that he was immediately returning to Mexico City to assess the situation.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has clashed with Nieto over his repeated calls for a border wall between their countries, sent his support in a tweet.

"God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you," he wrote.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott offered "the thoughts and prayers of Texans" to Mexico and said the state would "continue to offer any support to aid Mexico in their time of need."

Earthquake expert Lucy Jones, who retired after 33 years at the USGS, told NBC News that the earthquake is "quite an unusual occasion” because it was so close to Mexico City.

"It’s a place that doesn’t usually have earthquakes, but it can. It’s sort of like having a magnitude 7 in Nevada — they aren’t as common as in California but they definitely have happened," Jones said.

 Mexico 7.1 Quake: ‘Horrific Images’ Emerge from Aftermath 1:53

Coincidentally, earlier on Tuesday, buildings across Mexico City held earthquake drills to mark the anniversary of a massive Sept 19, 1985, earthquake that killed at least 9,500, the AP said.

Valerie Perez, a 23-year-old student from Venezuela, ran from her fourth-floor apartment in Mexico City just in time to see the building in front of it collapse.

"A drill at 11 a.m. and an earthquake at 1 p.m.," she said. "This is the most powerful thing I have ever seen in my life." 

Elizabeth Chuck
ELIZABETH CHUCK
DANIELLA SILVA
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOPIC WORLD
FIRST PUBLISHED SEP 19 2017, 3:11 PM ET

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