The southern parts of North America are taking a battering from Mother Nature lately. Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Miami and the rest of Florida after wreaking havoc along the eastern Caribbean. And this is but mere days after its predecessor, Hurricane Harvey, raised hell and high water in the southern Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and Texas in the last few days of August. Before Irma could make landfall in the US, however, another calamity struck, this one of a seismic nature. A state in southern Mexico was rocked mightily early this Friday (Eastern Time) by an earthquake reckoned to be one of the strongest to hit the country in over three decades.

Like the temblor of old

In the wee hours of September 8 ET, an earthquake measuring 8.1 in magnitude struck the south of Mexico. Its epicenter was determined to have originated from the Pacific Ocean, 74 miles due south from the coast of Chiapas and Oaxaca states. The tremors carried through the earth ranging all the way to Mexico City in the northwest (600 miles) and Guatemala City to the east of the epicenter, and multiple shocks averaging magnitude 5 and above have been recorded by the US Geological Survey. The origin point of the quake was measured to be 43 miles under the sea floor, relatively shallow.

Such was the power of the seismic disturbance that Mexico City had buildings sway very violently, and power was lost in several neighborhoods, recalling the killer temblor of 1985 that hit the capital and killed thousands.

Back in Chiapas, things were even worse. According to the state governor Manuel Velasco, at least three people have been reported to have died during the main earthquake in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Two were identified as women who were crushed to death by a collapsing house and wall.

Tsunami warning

The Chiapas earthquake is close to the undersea geographical location called the Middle America Trench, described by the USGS as a “prime location” for seismic tremors to originate.

The fact that the epicenter was shallow also meant the potential for damage was greater, due to the intensity of the vibrations not dissipating yet in traveling long distances through the earth before reaching the surface. Gov. Velasco announced over local television that numerous buildings have had roofs fall in, while hospitals are cut off from electrical power.

He has canceled school across all grade levels for Friday.

Having occurred so close to shore the earthquake has also triggered tsunami warnings for Chiapas and other neighboring states in southern Mexico. Even other nations in Central America such as Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras have been similarly alerted.