Magnitude-8 earthquake hits south Mexico, tsunami possible

A massive earthquake hit off the coast of southern Mexico late Thursday night, causing buildings to sway violently and people to flee into the streets in panic as far away as the capital city.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 8.0 and its epicenter was 165 kilometers (102 miles) west of Tapachula in southern Chiapas state not far from Guatemala. It had a depth of 35 kilometers (22 miles).

The earthquake was so powerful, a helicorder system in Bloomington picked up the seismic activity.

The U.S. Tsunami Warning System said hazardous tsunami waves were possible on the Pacific coasts of several Central American countries. Waves were possible within the next three hours for Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador, it said. There was no tsunami threat for the U.S. West Coast.

Civil protection officials were checking for damage in Chiapas, but the quake was so powerful that frightened residents in Mexico City more than 1,000 kilometers (650 miles) away fled apartment buildings, often in their pajamas, and gathered in groups in the street.

Around midnight buildings swayed strongly for more than minute, loosening light fixtures from ceilings. Helicopters crisscrossed the sky above Mexico Dity with spotlights. Some neighborhoods kept electricity while others remained in darkness.

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