Latest: Death toll from 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico rises to 79

Update 11.55pm: A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 79 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust.

Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

The quake came less than two weeks after another quake left 90 dead in the country's south, and it occurred as Mexicans commemorated the anniversary of a 1985 quake that killed thousands.

Dozens of buildings collapsed into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states.

A federal government Twitter account announced the death toll had risen to 79, though it did not give a breakdown by state.

Morelos Governor Graco Ramirez earlier reported on Twitter that at least 42 people had died in his state south of Mexico City.

At least 11 others died in Puebla state, according to Francisco Sanchez, spokesman for the state's Interior Department.

Governor Alfredo del Mazo said at least nine had died in the State of Mexico, which also borders the capital.

Local officials in Mexico City reported at least four dead in the Benito Juarez borough alone.

Update 8.57pm: It is reported at least five people have been killed in central Mexico after a powerful earthquake.

Earlier: A powerful earthquake has hit central Mexico, cracking building facades and scattering rubble in the capital on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake.

The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and was centred near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles south east of Mexico City.

Thousands of people fled office buildings and hugged to calm each other along Mexico City's central Reforma Avenue as alarms blared, and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument.

In the Roma neighbourhood, which was struck hard by the 1985 quake, piles of stucco and brick fallen from building facades littered the streets.

Two men calmed a woman seated on a stool in the street, blood trickling form a small wound on her knee.

At a nearby market, a worker in a hardhat walked around the outside warning people not to smoke as a smell of gas filled the air.

Market trader Edith Lopez, 25, was in a taxi a few blocks away when the quake struck.

She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.

Pictures fell from office building walls, objects were shaken off of flat surfaces and computer monitors toppled over.

Some people dived for cover under desks and local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city's normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.

Earlier in the day workplaces across the city held preparation drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.1 temblor, which killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of Mexico City.

Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

The latest earthquake comes 11 days after a huge temblor killed 96 people.


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