Magnitude 5.5 earthquake shakes southern Mexico

Residents of Mexico City had a rude awakening this morning, as a magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck near the coast in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, roughly 350 kms to the south, and was quickly followed by a 5.1-magnitude aftershock.

These quakes struck at 13:04 GMT (9:04 a.m. EDT) and 13:12 GMT (9:12 a.m. EDT), respectively — just 14 hours after a 6.2 magnitude tremblor shook the region of Guatemala City, Guatemala, 850 kms away to the east.

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Although Mexico National Seismology Service (Servicio Sismológico Nacional, SSN) preliminary reports set the magnitudes of the quake and aftershock as 5.9 and 5.6, they were downgraded slightly after a more detailed examination. The US Geologic Survey has confirmed the magnitudes as 5.5 and 5.1. Since then, according to the SSN twitter account (@SismologicoMX), there have been two more preliminary reports of aftershocks, at 13:26 GMT (9:26 a.m. EDT) and 13:36 GMT (9:36 a.m. EDT), both measured at 5.0 on the Richter scale.

According to Reuters, some buildings in Mexico city were evacuated, but Mayor Manuel Mancera tweeted that have been no reports of damages.

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Even though these quakes happened 350 kms away (roughly the same distance from Toronto to Ottawa), the residents of Mexico City have good reason to be concerned. The city is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes, due to local geology, as it is partially built upon an old lake-bed. These high water-content soils tend to amply the shaking from any earthquake — even those that happen some distance away.

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