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Mexicans clean up after powerful earthquake rattles Acapulco and Mexico City

The aftermath of a powerful earthquake that hit Acapulco, Mexico, on Sept. 7, 2021. (David Guzman/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

A previous map in this story noted shake intensity as magnitude. This has been corrected.

MEXICO CITY — Mexican workers shoveled rubble from roads and restored electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes Wednesday after a powerful earthquake rocked buildings from the beach city of Acapulco to Mexico City, more than 200 miles away.

The quake Tuesday, centered outside Acapulco, killed at least two people, authorities said. One was a 19-year-old motorcyclist in Coyuca de Benítez, about 30 miles northwest of Acapulco, who was struck by a falling utility pole. The other was an elderly woman who died when a fence toppled onto her home in an outlying district of the resort city, Mayor Adela Román Ocampo said.

In Acapulco, nervous residents and tourists slept on benches or in parked cars Tuesday night as aftershocks jolted the city.

“People are afraid to go back into their homes,” the mayor said in a phone interview. The city government opened sports facilities so residents would have a safe place to rest, she said.

Most damage was minor: shattered windows, roof tiles that clattered to the ground, gas leaks at a few hotels. But the Acapulco airport was closed to commercial flights after problems were detected in the control tower, the mayor said. “They are rushing to do the repair work,” she said.

Highway crews labored Wednesday to open roads blocked by rocks and landslides, including the Carretera Escénica, the curving coastal highway that links Acapulco to the nearby tourist hub of Punta Diamante.

Luisa Martínez, 30, a worker at a juice shop in downtown Acapulco, returned to work Wednesday still jittery about the powerful quake.

“It was really strong,” she said. She had just put her children to bed Tuesday night when her two-story home began to shake. “Chunks of concrete went flying, and the lights went out. Fortunately it didn’t kill a lot of people.”

Mexico’s National Seismological Service reported more than 200 aftershocks, including one that reached magnitude 5.2.

Chunks of plaster and concrete toppled from hotels and homes in Acapulco, and some cars were crushed by falling posts. Cracked walls and other minor damage was reported at buildings throughout Guerrero state, including two hospitals from which patients were evacuated.

Electricity was restored by Wednesday morning to most of the 1.9 million people in central Mexico who lost power, according to the Federal Electricity Commission.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.0-magnitude quake struck 11 miles northeast of Acapulco at 8:47 p.m. local time. Officials initially issued a tsunami warning, but none materialized.

Still, the quake was strong enough to be felt by residents of Mexico City, where the lights went off in some buildings and many people ran outside, huddling together in the rain.

The capital’s subway service was briefly interrupted after the temblor. Perhaps most worrisome, commuters were trapped on an aerial cable-car system operating in the working-class district of Iztapalapa after an electrical failure. For about an hour, the cars rocked slowly in the wind, as panicked bystanders watched from below. The service resumed as generators kicked in.

“Everyone was able to end their trips calmly,” the capital’s transportation chief, Andrés Lajous, reported on Twitter.

The temblor revived memories of a massive quake that occurred on the same day in 2017, killing scores of people in the southern part of the country. A quake less than two weeks later triggered the collapse of buildings in Mexico City and left nearly 400 dead nationwide.

Gabriela Martínez and Rachel Pannett in Sydney contributed to this report.

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