A policeman removes rubble from a building damaged Tuesday by an earthquake in Oaxaca. AP Photo / Luis Alberto Cruz Hernandez

A powerful earthquake centered near the surfing destination of Huatulco killed at least two people, swaying buildings in Mexico City and causing a refinery fire.

One person died when a building collapsed in the Oaxacan city; another perished when a house fell apart in the tiny mountain village of San Juan Ozolotepec.

The U.S. Geologic Survey said the magnitude 7.4 quake hit at 10:29 a.m. along the country’s southern Pacific coast at a depth of 16 miles / 26 km. The epicenter was 7 miles / 12 km south-southwest of Santa Maria Zapotitlan in Oaxaca. It was felt in Guatemala and throughout south and central Mexico, but not in Yucatan. The USGS estimated that some 2 million people felt strong or moderate shaking and another 49 million felt weak or light shaking.

{ Earlier: A 7.1 quake in 2017 kills hundreds in Mexico City, region }

Groups of people in Mexico City milled around outside in close proximity about an hour after the quake. Many were not wearing masks despite past appeals from municipal officials for them to, The Associated Press reported.

In Huatulco, the earthquake knocked goods off shelves and some rubble from buildings.

Local news media reported damage to some buildings in the state capital, Oaxaca city.

The earthquake hit a quake-prone region where four underground tectonic plates come together. In the past 35 years, there have been at least seven magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes, killing around 10,000 people — most of them in a 1985 8.0 quake.

“This has the potential to be a deadly earthquake and cause significant damage,” U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle said. “This area is capable of and has had larger earthquakes in the past.”

“There will be aftershocks,” Earle said. “It is not unexpected to see a magnitude 6 at this point and a number of smaller ones.”

This quake happened when the Cocos plate, which is to the southwest of the area, slipped under the North American plate, Earle said.
“You’ve got all sorts of plates and they’re moving quickly,” Earle said. “The important thing is how fast the plates are moving relative to each other.”

Source: The Associated Press