Refinery fire and falling debris hit Mexico after 7.5 quake

(Bloomberg) — A 7.4 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Mexico on Tuesday killed at least six people, left others trapped under rubble, and caused a fire at the nation’s biggest oil refinery.

The epicenter was near the beach resort of Huatulco in Oaxaca state on the Pacific coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Debris was strewn across some sidewalks in Mexico City, more than 400 miles away, as plaster from building facades crumbled and tiles were shaken loose. Residents in face masks gathered in the streets, the memories of a deadly 2017 earthquake that killed more than 300 still fresh in their minds.

A 7.4 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Mexico on Tuesday killed at least six people, left others trapped under rubble and caused a fire at the nation’s biggest oil refinery

At least fifteen people were trapped by a landslide on a highway near the epicenter, Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat said in interviews with local media. Two hospitals serving Covid-19 patients in Oaxaca reported cracks in the walls, and one needed to isolate part of the building, but neither had significant structural damage, he said. He’ll declare a state of emergency for at least 50 municipalities in the state, he said.

State-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos shut production at its 330,000 barrels-per-day Salina Cruz refinery in Oaxaca after a fire, which was controlled by firefighters. A refinery worker died after falling from a high structure, according to a company statement.

No damage was reported at the Salina Cruz maritime terminal on the west coast, Pemex said.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that so far ports, airports, hydroelectric plants, are all in good condition.

At some hospitals, coronavirus patients remained in their beds as staff evacuated.

“Patients on ventilators or attached to machines are hard to move and at higher risk if we move them, unfortunately,” said David Martinez, a medical resident at Mexico City’s National Institute of Respiratory Diseases, speaking by phone.

Mexico’s stocks and currency pared some gains following the quake but both closed higher on the day.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center sent an all-clear in the afternoon, saying the initial tsunami threat had passed.

“Buildings were shaking but I tried not to look at them because it causes you to panic,” said Juan Sosa Flores, 61, who was speaking over the wail of ambulance sirens on Paseo de la Reforma, the main street in Mexico City’s financial district. He was on the third floor of a building when the earthquake struck.

The Yucatan Times
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