Powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake hits Mexico

Though it was the strongest quake in the country in 100 years, deaths and damages were relatively low
mexico earthquake The earthquake started in the ocean off Mexico's southern coast. It was also felt in Guatemala. (USGS/The Telegraph)

A massive earthquake struck Mexico late Thursday night. The epicenter, or central point, of the quake was in the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of the Mexican state of Chiapas. It measured around 8.2 on the Richter scale, which makes it the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in over 100 years.

The event happened at about midnight local time, meaning that most people were in bed. Buildings swayed, in some cases collapsing, as the ground shook heavily for a full minute. The quake was felt as far away as Mexico City and into the neighbouring countries of Guatemala and Honduras.

Tsunamis and power outages

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People were dressed pajamas and bathrobes as they gathered outside following the quake. (Getty Embed)

Residents ran from their homes in their pajamas and gathered in the streets away from the shaking buildings. Many pictures and videos emerged on social media of the quake in action.

Here is a video of the famous Angel of Independence monument shaking during the quake.

Tsunami warnings were also issued for the Mexican coast and many Central American countries, such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and more. Tsunamis are waves caused when an event like an quake disturbs the water and sends a giant wave across the ocean.

Meanwhile, many Southern regions of the country woke up to find themselves without power or water (though these things should be restored within the next 36 hours). Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto ordered schools closed in some areas so that officials could inspect the damage and see if any buildings were in danger of collapsing.

Powerful, but not as destructive

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A man lights a candle in memory of Mexico's tragic 1985 earthquake. (Getty Embed)

Though this quake was indeed mighty, it was thankfully nowhere near the most damaging or deadly one Mexico has seen. In 1985, an 8.1 quake hit the country, but with an epicenter very near to Mexico City. The damage was catastrophic and 10,000 died.

The 1985 quake was so devastating that the Mexican government made changes to its building codes. These are the laws about how the structure of a building is made. Thanks to these changes, modern Mexican buildings are much stronger and designed to withstand quakes better. And while the nation mourns the dozens that died in last night's disaster, it is clearly nowhere near the tragedy of 1985.

"Safe overall"

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Many buildings and vehicles were damaged during the quake. (Getty Embed)

For the estimated 50 million Mexicans who felt it, the earthquake was frightening. But overall, President Nieto called for people to be calm.

"We are assessing the damage, which will probably take hours, if not days," he told the country, "but the population is safe overall. There should not be major sense of panic."


IN DEPTH: Mexico's tectonic junction

Mexico_tectonic_plates earthquake

The tectonic plates under North and Central America. This quake happened near where the Cocos, North American, and Caribbean plates meet. (Wikimedia Commons)

Even beyond 1985, Mexico has a long history of earthquakes, or seismic activity. The reason is that the country is found near where several tectonic plates meet. A tectonic plate is a massive sheet of the planet's crust. These plates are always very, very slowly in motion.

As they move across one another, the plates sometimes get a little stuck at their fault lines, or the places where two plates meet. An earthquake is the moment where those plates get unstuck. The tremor caused by the plates getting suddenly released from each other is the quake.

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