MEXICO CITY (CBS)- Mexico Update: Dozens were killed after one of Mexico’s strongest earthquakes struck off the country’s southern coast, toppling hundreds of buildings, triggering tsunami evacuations and sending panicked people fleeing into the streets in the middle of the night.
Mexico’s civil defense chief, Luis Felipe Puente, says the death toll has risen to 58.
The quake hit minutes before midnight Thursday and was strong enough to cause buildings to sway violently in the capital city more than 650 miles away. As beds banged against walls, people still wearing pajamas ran out of their homes and gathered in frightened groups.
CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reporter Jeff Paul was in Puerto Escondido when the quake hit. He said he watched his house sway and the motion of the earth caused waves in a nearby swimming pool.
“It was one of those experiences where it kind of left you shaking there for a while,” he said.
Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, the state nearest the epicenter, said his house “moved like chewing gum.”
The furious shaking created a second national emergency for Mexican agencies already bracing for Hurricane Katia on the other side of the country. The system was expected to strike the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz early Saturday as a Category 2 storm that could bring life-threatening floods.
Puente confirmed the deaths of 45 people in the southern state of Oaxaca. Another 10 people died in Chiapas and three more in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
The worst-hit city appeared to be Juchitan, on the narrow waist of Oaxaca known as the Isthmus. About half of the city hall collapsed in a pile of rubble and streets were littered with the debris of ruined houses. Local officials said at least 17 of the 35 dead were in Juchitan.
Mexico’s capital escaped major damage, but the quake terrified sleeping residents, many of whom still remember the catastrophic 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and devastated large parts of the city.
Families were jerked awake by the grating howl of the capital’s seismic alarm. Some shouted as they dashed out of rocking apartment buildings. Even the iconic Angel of Independence Monument swayed as the quake’s waves rolled through the city’s soft soil.