Magnitude-8 earthquake hits off coast of southern Mexico, felt in capital

MEXICO CITY — A massive 8-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of southern Mexico late Thursday night,┬ácausing buildings to sway violently and people to flee into the street in panic as far away as the capital city.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake 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.

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 City with spotlights. Some neighborhoods kept electricity while others remained in darkness.

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