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At least 149 dead after 7.1 magnitude earthquake jolts Mexico

People search for survivors in a collapsed building in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake has jolted Mexico, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage. (AP Photo/Enric Marti)

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

Dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed sickeningly.

The quake is the deadliest in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country's south.

Luis Felipe Puente said 55 people died in Morelos state, just south of the capital, while 49 died in Mexico City and 32 died in Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Ten people died in Mexico State, which surrounds the capital, and three in Guerrero state. The count did not include one death reported by officials in Oaxaca state.

Mancera, the Mexico City mayor, said 50 to 60 people were rescued alive by citizens and emergency workers in the capital. Authorities said at least 70 people in the capital had been hospitalized for injuries.

The federal interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, said authorities had reports of people possibly still being trapped in collapsed buildings. He said search efforts were slow because of the fragility of rubble.

"It has to be done very carefully," he said. And "time is against us."

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City.

"God bless the people of Mexico City," President Donald Trump posted to Twitter.

Pictures fell from walls, objects were shaken off of flat surfaces and computer monitors toppled over. Some people dove for cover under desks.

Earlier in the day buildings across the city held preparation drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake.

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.

There were no immediate reports of deaths.

Puebla Gov. Tony Gali tweeted that there had been damaged buildings in the city of Cholula including collapsed church steeples.

In the Roma neighborhood, which was hit hard by the 1985 quake, piles of stucco and brick fallen from building facades littered the streets. At least one large parking structure collapsed. 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 stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she 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 dove for cover under desks. Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city's normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.

Mexico City's international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for any damage.

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 magnitude 8.1 quake that hit Sept. 7 of Mexico's southern coast was also felt strongly in the capital.

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