MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A major earthquake struck Mexico on Tuesday, damaging buildings and forcing evacuations in the capital and reportedly knocking down some homes in rural areas.
Office buildings shook and office employees fled into the street when the 7.4-magnitude quake rattled Mexico City. Cell phone lines went down and traffic snarled in the capital moments after the quake, which lasted for more than a minute.
The governor of the southwestern state of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre, said he had received reports of 500 homes damaged, with some of them knocked down, but he gave no more details.
In the Pacific coast beach resort of Acapulco, tourists ran out of cafes and restaurants, a local resident said.
“I swear I never felt one so strong, I thought the building was going to collapse,” said Sebastian Herrera, 42, a businessman from a Mexico City neighborhood hit hard in a devastating 1985 earthquake that killed thousands of people.
Some buildings in the capital’s trendy district of Condesa were cracked by the earthquake on Tuesday, and residents raced out of their buildings with young children and dogs in their arms.
Television images showed part of a bridge collapsed onto a vehicle on the outskirts of Mexico City, but Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said no one was injured and helicopter flyovers showed there was no sign of major damage in the capital.
President Felipe Calderon also said on his twitter account there were no reports of serious damage. Mexico City’s international airport was operating normally and only a couple flights to the United States were temporarily grounded, a spokesman said.
The U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, said the quake registered magnitude 7.4 and that its epicenter was in Guerrero state, near Acapulco. It also reported several aftershocks.
More than two hours after the quake, some residents of the capital were still too scared to return to their homes, fearing powerful aftershocks.
The quake cracked walls and knocked down roofs in Ometepec, the town closest to the epicenter, but there were no reports of casualties there, a state government spokesman said earlier.
In Acapulco, schools were evacuated and some parents rushed to pick up their children, but there appeared to be no major damage to hotels or other buildings in the resort.
The White House, which has declined to confirm reports that President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia was vacationing in Mexico, said the 13-year-old was safe.
“In light of today’s earthquake, we can confirm that Malia Obama is safe and was never in danger,” said Kristina Schake, communications director to first lady Michelle Obama. “We would reiterate our request that the media respect the privacy and security of the Obama children and not report on or photograph the girls when they are not with their parents.”
The quake was felt as far away as Guatemala City.
Gabino Cue, governor of Oaxaca state, said via twitter that the quake had caused cracks in school buildings and damaged roofs in one part of the state.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the inland earthquake would not generate a destructive widespread tsunami, but there was the possibility of some local tsunami effects.
Additional reporting by Patrick Rucker and Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City, and Luis Enrique Martinez in Acapulco; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Kieran Murray