- Reports of whole apartment buildings swaying and people fleeing to the streets
- Epicenter was closer to Oaxaca than Mexico City
- Malia Obama, teenage daughter of U.S. president, is staying currently
PUBLISHED: 13:42 EST, 20 March 2012 | UPDATED: 17:14 EST, 20 March 2012
An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 shook central southern Mexico on Tuesday, sending terrified workers and residents running into the streets and damaging an estimated 800 homes.
The worst hit area was the town of Iguala, which was close to the epicenter of the quake.
In more populated areas, like nearby Oaxaca and Mexico City which is further away, terrified workers fled the swaying buildings as plaster crashed to the pavement and windows broke.
The southern border city of Oaxaca was significantly closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, and Malia Obama was staying in the town with a dozen other American students on a school trip. No word yet whether or not she has been evacuated from the town.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
In spite of the serious quake, Mexican president Felipe Calderon said that there were no fatalities yet reported.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the ‘strong, long’ tremors reached 7.4 on the Richter scale.
The epicenter of the quake was 15 miles (25km) east of Ometepec in Guerrero state, near the Pacific Coast resort of Acapulco.
Panicked residents screamed in fear as they were evacuated from buildings across the city just after midday.
One Mexico City resident, Imogen Dashwood, told MailOnline: ‘It was very scary, I was in my apartment and I didn’t know if it was best to try and run down the stairs to get outside or hide under the table.
‘In the end I hid under the table but it was probably not the smartest thing to do as it seems all the offices around here were evacuated to outside, there are still a lot of people outside now,’ the 30-year-old said.
Responding to the scene: Firefighters worked to move the bridge debris
‘My apartment building in Polanco was shaking and swaying for about five minutes and kept moving even after the earthquake had stopped.’
Telephone lines went down and traffic ground to halt in the capital just moments after the quake, but there is still mass confusion throughout the city.
‘The phone lines are now down but the internet seems to still be working,’ Ms Dashwood told MailOnline.
WHY WASN’T THERE MORE DAMAGE? THE SCIENCE OF EARTHQUAKES EXPLAINED
Though the magnitude of the earthquake- 7.4 according to the U.S. Geological Survey- was extremely high, there was relatively little severe damage and no known fatalities.
One of the main reasons why is that the earthquake struck very deep into the ground.
It hit 12.4 miles (20 km) below the surface, which helped to mute the tremor before it got to ground and reverberated among buildings.
It also helped that the epicenter was far enough away from major cities.
Because it was closest to Oaxaca (the country’s 10th biggest state by population) the damage was lessened due to a lack of closely-knit buildings.
By comparison, the deadly earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 was registered as 7.0 on the Richter scale, but was much nearer the capital city and only 8.1 miles (13 km) below ground.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center warned of the possibility of some local tsunami effects, although it said the inland earthquake would not generate a destructive widespread tsunami.
‘I swear I never felt one so strong, I thought the building was going to collapse,’ said Sebastian Herrera, 42, a businessman from a neighbourhood hit hard in Mexico’s devastating 1985 earthquake, which killed thousands.
Groups of women hugged and cried at Mexico City’s Angel of Independence monument, where hundreds of people evacuated from office buildings said they never had felt such a strong earthquake. Others typed ferociously on their Blackberries.
Samantha Rodriguez, a 37-year old environmental consultant, was evacuated from the 11th floor on the Angel Tower office building.
‘I thought it was going to pass rapidly but the walls began to thunder and we decided to get out,’ she said.
Rosa Maria Lopez Velazquez, 62, nearly passed out as she stood outside a mall in the capital. ‘I have problems with pressure,’ she said. ‘I felt I was going to faint.’
‘It was very strong, but we didn’t see anything fall,’ said Irma Ortiz, who runs a guesthouse in Oaxaca, near Guerrero. She said their telephones were down and that the quake had shaken the hotel from side to side.
The earthquake began six miles (10km) underground, and was followed by a 4.8-magnitude aftershock, according to Mexico’s national seismological agency.
Mexico City’s airport was closed for a short time but there was no damage to runways and operations were returning to normal.
Tremors were felt as far away as Guatemala City.
President Felipe Calderon said there were no immediate reports of major damage.
Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter that the water system and other ‘strategic services’ were not experiencing problems.
WATCH THE VIDEO FROM INSIDE A MEXICO CITY OFFICE BUILDING HERE