Death toll from magnitude-8.1 earthquake in Mexico rises to 61
The death toll from the powerful earthquake that struck off Mexico's southern coast on Thursday has risen to 61. At least 200 people have been injured in the magnitude-8.1 earthquake, the most powerful to hit the region in a century. A massive rescue operation is taking place in the worst-hit states of Tabasco, Oaxaca and Chiapas as people remain trapped under debris.
The powerful quake struck at 11:50 pm local time on Thursday. It shook buildings, causing panic in the capital Mexico City, situated hundreds of miles away from the epicenter. A tsunami warning was also triggered, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people in coastal areas in Chiapas. The warning was subsequently lifted. Dozens of aftershocks plagued the region on Friday.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said around 50 million people across Mexico felt the tremor. He has declared a day of mourning and ordered flags to fly at half-mast in tribute to the dead and bereaved. He extended his condolences to families of the deceased.
The states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, which were closest to the quake's epicenter and worst hit, have a population of around nine million people. They are also Mexico's two most impoverished and least developed parts. The full extent of the damage remains unclear. "There is damage to hospitals that have lost energy," said Chiapas's governor Manuel Velasco. "Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged."
The US Geological Survey (USGS) PAGER system, which predicts economic and human loss following the earthquake, has issued a red alert. "High casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response," it said.