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7.4 magnitude quake rattles Mexican resorts, capital

A 7.4-magnitude quake centered near Oaxaca didn't cause heavy damage, but was felt across a huge area of the country. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

A strong, long 7.4 earthquake with an epicenter in Guerrero state shook central southern Mexico on Tuesday, swaying buildings in Mexico City and sending frightened workers and residents into the streets.

More than 800 homes were damaged and 60 collapsed near the epicenter in Ometepec in southern Guerrero state. There were no reports of death or serious injury. Fear and panic spread as a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock was also felt in the capital, where there were also no reports of deaths.

Other aftershocks were felt around the borders of Oaxaca and Guerrero states close to the epicenter.


"It was very strong, very substantial," Campos Benitez, hospital director in Ometepec.

Police radio operator Marcos Marroquin said there were preliminary reports of damaged houses in the municipality but only a report of a broken arm.

Telephone service was down in the city and throughout the area where the quake was felt, and some neighborhoods were without power, according to Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who set up a hotline for people to report damage.

About 40 passengers were stranded for a short time on the Mexico City airport air train, but later released. The airport closed for a time but officials said there was no runway damage and they resumed operations. 

"I swear I never felt one so strong, I thought the building was going to collapse,'' said Sebastian Herrera, 42, a businessman from a neighborhood hit hard in Mexico's devastating 1985 earthquake, which killed thousands.

Groups of women hugged and cried at Mexico City's Angel of Independence monument, where hundreds of people evacuated from office buildings said they never had felt such a strong earthquake.

Others typed ferociously on their Blackberries. Samantha Rodriguez, a 37-year old environmental consultant, was evacuated from the 11th floor on the Angel Tower office building.

"I thought it was going to pass rapidly but the walls began to thunder and we decided to get out," she said.

Mexico City, built on a lakebed, was badly damaged in 1985 when an 8.0 earthquake killed at least 10,000 people. In past years, Guerrero has suffered several severe earthquakes, including a 7.9 in 1957 which killed an estimated 68 people, and a 7.4 in 1995 which left three dead.

Tuesday's quake was the strongest shaking felt in the capital since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck also in Guerrero in December. Officials said at least three people died in Guerrero, but there were no reports of widespread damage.

A magnitude-8.0 quake near Manzanillo on Mexico's central Pacific coast killed 51 people in 1995 and a magintude-7.5 quake killed at least 20 people in the southern state of Oaxaca in 1999.

Victor Flores, an official at the Guerrero emergency management agency, told msnbc.com that initial reports from teams near the epicenter were of damage only to homes built of adobe or other weak construction material.

Aerial teams will follow up,” he added, “but so far no deaths or injuries.”

A person at Acapulco City Hall told NBC News that they felt the quake had no immediate reports of injuries or damages.

A major earthquake measuring as high as 7.6 magnitude, struck east of Acapulco. Msnbc's Tamron Hall reports.

No damage was reported in Oaxaca, about 100 miles west-southwest of the epicenter, according to local television. The front desk at the Hotel Real Oaxaca told NBC that the temblor scared residents but there was no damage.

A worker at Rica Pizza in Ometepec, one of the towns nearest to the epicenter, told NBC News that there was no damage to his business but he heard of damage to some other buildings in the area. He said electricity had gone out at his location -- and many of his business neighbors had lost theirs. His phone was working -- though he said there were some businesses without phone service. He also said he had heard lots of ambulance sirens but doesn't have any specifics on injuries.

The quake was followed by several aftershocks, he said.

"It was very strong, but we didn't see anything fall," said Irma Ortiz, who runs a guesthouse in Oaxaca. She said that their telephones are down and that the quake shook them side-to-side.

Celia Galicia, who works at the U.S. consular office in Oaxaca, had just flown in from Mexico City when it hit.

She said there was panic in the airport, and a dash for the doors. But she said that she saw no damage at the airport and no one was hurt. She says one building in downtown Oaxaca appears to be damaged and has been evacuated.

She added that they've had two strong aftershocks, and that in downtown Oaxaca most people are out on the street at this point.

"It started shaking badly," she said.

The White House said President Barack Obama's oldest daughter, Malia, is safe and never was in danger during  the quake. Malia, 13, is on vacation with a school group in southwestern Mexico, according to reports from the region.

Earlier the quake had been reported at 7.9 magnitude. No tsunami was expected.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP - Getty Images

People run to safety on the streets of Mexico City after a strong quake hits Mexico on March 20, 2012.

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