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Quake damaged homes, but Mexico avoided major destruction


    Two diners sit outside a restaurant on Reforma Avenue after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Mexico City, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. A powerful earthquake has shaken south and central Mexico, causing people to flee buildings and office towers in the country’s capital, and setting off quake alert systems.

MEXICO CITY >> Mexico appeared Saturday to have escaped major destruction after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rattled the country, but it rekindled fears in a population that still sees daily reminders of deadly earthquakes that struck five months ago.

The Interior Department said in a statement that 50 homes suffered significant structural damage in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca state, along with other damage to the city hall and main church. The national electricity commission said nearly 1 million users lost power, but it was expected to be restored over the course of the day.

But a military helicopter carrying officials assessing damage from the quake crashed in the country’s south late Friday, killing 13 people and injuring 15, all of them on the ground.

The Oaxaca state prosecutor’s office said in a statement that five women, four men and three children were killed at the crash site and another person died later at the hospital.

A state government official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said the chopper crashed into a group of people who had been spending the night in an open field, fearful of returning to their homes as aftershocks continued to shake the terrain hours later.

When the quake struck Friday, Maricarmen Trujillo was on the same eighth floor of a Mexico City office building where she rode out a Sept. 19 earthquake that killed 228 people in the capital alone.

“I relived a lot of those moments,” Trujillo said, still jittery. This time an emergency app on her cellphone gave her a 30-second warning before things started to shake. She stayed in place, but felt more prepared.

Mexican Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted that there were no immediate reports of deaths directly related to the quake.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said via Twitter that Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca state Gov. Alejandro Murat, who were on the helicopter that crashed in Oaxaca, were fine.

Scars from a magnitude 8.2 quake Sept. 7 that killed nearly 100 people in Oaxaca and neighboring Chiapas are still fresh, while in Mexico City, wounds from the Sept. 19 quake remain visible. Many buildings left uninhabitable are still awaiting demolition, and people flooded into the streets as the ground seethed Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey originally put the magnitude of Friday’s quake at 7.5 but later lowered it to 7.2. It said the epicenter was 33 miles (53 kilometers) northeast of Pinotepa in southern Oaxaca state. It had a depth of 15 miles (24 kilometers).

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said it appeared not to be an aftershock of the 8.2 temblor on Sept. 7 in Oaxaca.

Gladys Barreno Castro was at work on the 29th floor of a downtown office building in Mexico City, but recognized quickly that the shaking was not as violent this time.

“It lasted a long time, but it wasn’t as strong,” Barreno said. “I didn’t think that it was going to destroy the city like the last time.”

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