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Mexico earthquake death toll 61 as rescue efforts begin

At least 61 people have died after the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century struck off the southern coast, toppling houses, damaging hospitals and government offices, and sparking mass evacuations.

A huge rescue operation was under way in the worst-hit states of Tabasco, Oaxaca and Chiapas where people are feared trapped under the rubble, BBC reported. President Enrique Peña Nieto said at least 200 people have been injured.

The 8.2-magnitude quake, which hit the nation’s Pacific Coast late on Thursday, was felt by about 50 million people across the country. It was the strongest earthquake Mexico has experienced in 100 years, the President said. In September 1985, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake killed an estimated 9,500 people in and around Mexico City.

Nieto has declared a day of mourning, saying flags would fly at half mast out of respect for the dead and bereaved. He said 45 deaths had been reported in Oaxaca, 12 in Chiapas and four in Tabasco.

The quake damaged 1,700 homes, 700 schools and 18 other public buildings in Chiapas, according to preliminary estimates.

One of the worst hit towns was Juchitán, in Oaxaca, where at least 17 deaths were reported. The town hall and a number of other buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.

At least one person was killed in Guatemala, its President said.

The massive earthquake struck at 11.49 p.m. on Thursday, with its epicentre located 119 km southwest of Tres Picos, Chiapas, Mexico’s seismological service said. It also triggered a tsunami warning and the evacuation of thousands of people in coastal communities in Chiapas. The warning was later lifted.

Throughout Friday, the region was shaken with scores of aftershocks.

Pope Francis, addressing an open air Mass on a visit to Colombia, said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and their families”. The earthquake was more powerful than the 1985 tremor that hit close to Mexico City and caused thousands of deaths.

Videos on social media showed significant tremors in various parts of the country, as well as major damage to buildings and infrastructure. Traffic lights could be seen shaking, videos showed.

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