Water from rooftop pools or tanks cascaded down residential buildings in the city, and construction workers on the 56th story of a new residential tower clung to each other as it swayed, images on social media showed.
The natural disaster was felt as far away as Guatemala to the south and Mexico City to the north, where apartment buildings and office towers swayed and electrical transformers exploded.
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People screamed in terror and some shouted out warnings to run from electricity poles that looked poised to fall, local resident Miguel Candelaria said.
The quake has hit at a time when Mexico is already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Miguel Candelaria, 30, was working at his computer in his family home in the Oaxaca town of Juchitan when the ground began to tremble.
The quake was also felt in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
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People who live in these coastal areas should stay alert, the center said.
The entity recommended authorities to keep the population away from beaches and also prevent sea navigation due to strong currents. In September 2017, an 8.1 magnitude quake struck off the southern coast, killing at least 60 people. The epicentre was 12km (seven miles) south-southwest of Santa Maria Zapotitlan in Oaxaca state. It was felt in Guatemala and throughout south and central Mexico.
Meanwhile, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the quake had a magnitude of 7.7, as reported by Reuters. Smaller waves were expected through Central America, Peru and Ecuador.
Earlier estimates put the magnitude of the quake at 7.7, but the USGS revised the magnitude down to 7.4.
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