Authorities say it was the strongest tremor to hit the country in a century. The worst scenes of destruction were witnessed in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. (Reuters)
People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. (Reuters)

At least 61 people died when the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in over eight decades tore through buildings and forced mass evacuations in the poor southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, triggering alerts as far away as Southeast Asia.

Rescue workers rushed to the worst scenes of destruction, in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, where officials warned there may be people trapped in the ruins.

President Enrique Pena Nieto described the 8.2 magnitude quake as "the largest registered in our country in at least the past 100 years" - stronger even than a devastating 1985 earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people in Mexico City.

At least 45 people died in Oaxaca, many of them in Juchitan, while in Chiapas the count reached 12 and in Tabasco four people lost their lives, according to federal and state officials.

TRT Worlds Tetiana Anderson reports.

Widespread destruction reported

The epicentre of the earthquake was 165 kilometers (102 miles) west of Tapachula in Chiapas, not far from Guatemala. It had a depth of 35 kilometers (22 miles).

People in distant Mexico City, the capital, ran out into the streets after the tremor.

A tsunami was confirmed in Mexico, with the largest wave at 0.7  metres (2.3 feet).            

The worst destruction appeared to be in Juchitan, Oaxaca, where 17 people were pulled from the rubble.

The Chiapas governor, Manuel Velasco, said 12 people had died there. 

In Tabasco, the death toll included two children. Ome was crushed by a collapsing wall. Another an infant o

Officials warned the toll could continue to rise in the three hard-hit southern states.

The US Tsunami Warning System also issued a tsunami warning for Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica. It said the threat was still being evaluated for Hawaii, Guam and other Pacific islands.

Pena Nieto said major damage has been caused and that one million people initially had been without power following the quake, but that electricity had been restored to 800,000 of them.

He said that there have been 62 aftershocks.

The quake was the strongest to hit the country since a devastating 1985 tremor that toppled buildings and killed thousands.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies