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Bryan Logan and Kieran Corcoran / BusinessInsider.com
September 08, 2017

This story originally appeared on BusinessInsider.com.

32 people have reportedly died after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico overnight, according to officials in the country.

Buildings collapsed and thousands of people were evacuated after the powerful tremor struck off the coast of Chiapas, the country's southernmost state, on Thursday night just before midnight local time.

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a press conference that the earthquake was the strongest to strike the country in a century and that 50 million of his nation's 120 million citizens would have felt its force.

The death toll rose to 32 on Friday morning after governors in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco confirmed a number of fatalities in their regions.

Video footage posted to social media shows highways and buildings shaking as the tremors rocked cities across the country. This is the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City:

Lamp posts trembled on an elevated highway:

Tsunami waves have since been recorded as a result of the quake and could reach 3 meters, or 10 feet, according to the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, though they are unlikely to be powerful enough to cause major destruction.

On Friday morning Oaxaca state governor Alejandro Murat said that 23 people had died there. According to the Reuters news agency, most of them were from the town of Juchitan, where a hotel, a bar and parts of a town hall were reduced to rubble.

An emergency services spokesman said seven people had died in Chiapas. Governor Manuel Velasco Coello had earlier said three of the deaths were in the two of San Cristobal.

Tabasco governor Arturo Nunez said two children died in his state. One was crushed by a collapsing wall, he said, while the other was a baby in hospital who died when the quake cut power to his ventilator.

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The US Geological Survey said the earthquake's epicenter was at sea 165 kilometers, or 102 miles, west of the southern Chiapas city of Tapachula. It had a depth of 35 kilometers, or about 20 miles, and struck at 11:49 p.m. local time on Thursday.

"The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily," said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal, a poor, largely indigenous state popular with tourists.

Civil Defense in Chiapas said on its Twitter account that its personnel were in the streets aiding people and warned residents to prepare for aftershocks. But it made no immediate comment about damage.

The quake was so powerful that frightened residents in Mexico City more than 1,000 kilometers, or 650 miles, away fled apartment buildings, often in their pajamas, and gathered in groups in the street.

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Buildings swayed strongly for more than a minute, loosening light fixtures from ceilings.

Helicopters crisscrossed the sky above Mexico City with spotlights. Some neighborhoods kept electricity while others were in darkness.

"I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much," a witness interviewed by the Associated Press. "At first I laughed, but when the lights went out I didn't know what to do. I nearly fell over," said Luis Carlos Briceno, an architect, 31, who was visiting Mexico City.

The Mexico earthquake comes just as the southeast of America braces for Hurricane Irma, which is being called a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm — and just weeks after Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas and Louisiana, killing at least 70 people.

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The earthquake appeared to have triggered a rare phenomenon known as "earthquake lights" wherein the motion of certain rocks causes atmospheric electrical discharges.

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