7.2-magnitude earthquake hits south and central Mexico

A woman is helped outside, along Reforma Avenue after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Mexico City.

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake has struck south and central Mexico, causing people to flee swaying buildings and office towers in the country's capital, where residents were still jittery after a deadly quake five months ago.

Crowds of people gathered on Mexico City's central Reforma Avenue as well as on streets in Oaxaca state's capital, nearer the quake's epicenter, which was in a rural area close to Mexico's Pacific coast and the border with Guerrero state.

"It was awful," said Mercedes Rojas Huerta, 57, who was sitting on a bench outside her home in Mexico City's trendy Condesa district, too frightened to go back inside.

She said: "It started to shake; the cars were going here and there. What do I do?"

She was still scared thinking of the September 19 earthquake that caused 228 deaths in the capital and 141 more in nearby states. Many buildings in Mexico City are still damaged from that quake.

Mexican Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Fuente tweeted that there were no immediate reports of major damages from Friday's quake.

In Oaxaca, governor Alejandro Murat said via Twitter that damage was being evaluated, but there were no deaths reported so far.

The Red Cross said the facade from a building collapsed in Mexico City's Condesa neighbourhood, which was hit hard on September 19.

The US Geological Survey put the quake's preliminary magnitude at 7.2 and said its epicenter was 33 miles (53 kilometres) northeast of Pinotepa in Oaxaca state. It had a depth of 15 miles (24 kilometres).

About an hour after the quake, a magnitude 5.8 aftershock in southern Mexico caused tall buildings in Mexico City to briefly sway again.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said Friday's earthquake appeared to be separate to, rather than an aftershock of, a September 8 earthquake also centred in Oaxaca, which registered a magnitude of 8.2.

That quake killed nearly 100 people in Oaxaca and neighbouring Chiapas, but was centered about 273 miles (440 kilometers) southwest of Friday's earthquake, Mr Earle said.

In Mexico's capital, frightened residents flooded into the streets in Condesa, including one woman wrapped in just a towel, but there were no immediate signs of damage.

"I'm scared," Ms Rojas Huerta said. "The house is old."

- PA

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