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7.4 Magnitutde Earthquake Hit Oaxaca, Southern Mexico

A magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck offshore Oaxaca, Mexico, on June 23, 2020, at 11:30 a.m. ET. Seismic instruments indicate the earthquake originated at a depth of 16 miles (26 km) as per USGS report.

The earthquake struck about seven miles southwest of Santa María Zapotitlán, Mexico. Perceived shaking for the quake was very strong.

USGS scientists expect that this event will trigger aftershocks, but these will decrease in frequency over time.  

Tsunami Warning

The earthquake also resulted in a tsunami threat message issued by NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. This message indicates the potential for hazardous tsunami waves within 1,000 kilometers of the epicenter, including forecasted waves of less than 0.3 meters in amplitude in Hawaii. 

Why The Earthquake Occurred

The earthquake occurred as the result of shallow thrust faulting, likely on the subduction zone interface between the Cocos and North America tectonic plates. Large earthquakes in this region are common. Today’s earthquake is near the northern end of the aftershock distribution of the September 2017 magnitude 8.2 earthquake, which was a normal faulting event within the subducting Cocos plate.   

The earthquake hit a quake-prone region where four underground tectonic plates come together. In the past 35 years, there have been at least seven magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes, killing around 10,000 people — most of them in a 1985 8.0 quake.

“This has the potential to be a deadly earthquake and cause significant damage,” U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle said. “This area is capable of and has had larger earthquakes in the past.”

Impact Of Earthquake

At least five people were killed, according to the coordinator for Mexico’s National Civil Protection Service.

Oaxaca state Gov. Alejandro Murat said a 22-year-old woman and a man were among the dead.

The Oaxacan Health Services also reported damages from the earthquake to general hospitals in Pochutla, Puerto Escondido and Pinotepa Nacional and a few community hospitals in other areas.

Users posted videos on Twitter with buildings shaking and moving surface.

Building can be seen shaking due to the earthquake.

This video shows how waves got created in a swimming pool due to the earthquake.

According to Murat, two of the hospitals with damages have been dealing with coronavirus patients.

“We are verifying [damages] because this hospital is also tending Covid cases on the Oaxacan coast,” he said on a radio interview with Radio Fórmula. The severity of the damages are not specified.

The National Civil Protection Service reported the first death after a structure collapsed after the earthquake, which occurred just east of the popular tourist destination Huatulco.

Mexico’s largest oil refinery, the Salina Cruz refinery, is offline after a fire broke out in the refinery following a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in the area.

Local news media reported damage to some buildings in the state capital, Oaxaca city. State officials said they were looking for damage.

The USGS estimated that some 2 million people felt strong or moderate shaking and another 49 million felt weak or light shaking.

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