ACAPULCO, Mexico — A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake at about 9:30 a.m. was centered on a long-dormant fault line northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday.
It was felt across at least a half-dozen states and Mexico’s capital, where it collapsed several walls and left large cracks in some facades. Debris covered sidewalks around the city.
Around the region, there were reports of isolated and minor damage, such as fallen fences, trees and broken windows. Chilpancingo, capital of the southern state of Guerrero, where the quake was centered, reported a power outage, but service was restored after 15 minutes.
Friday’s quake occurred along a section of the Pacific Coast known as the Guerrero Seismic Gap, a 125-mile section where tectonic plates meet and have been locked, meaning huge amounts of energy are being stored up with potentially devastating effects, said USGS seismologist Gavin Hayes.
The last large quake that occurred along the section was a magnitude-7.6 temblor in 1911, Hayes said.
He said scientists will be watching the area more intensely because moderate quakes such as Friday’s can destabilize the surrounding sections of seismic plate and increase the chance of a more powerful temblor.
The USGS says the Guerrero Gap has the potential to produce a quake as strong as magnitude 8.4.
potentially much more powerful than the magnitude-8.1 quake that killed 9,500 people and devastated large sections of Mexico City in 1985. The 1985 quake was centered 250 miles (400 kilometers) from the capital on the Pacific Coast.
Mexico City itself is vulnerable even to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds that quiver as quake waves hit.