August 11, 2006

Earthquake shakes Mexico

By Anahi Rama

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - An earthquake rattled Mexico City
on Friday with a force that sent people fleeing onto the
streets in panic and revived memories of a devastating 1985

No casualties or major damage were reported after the 9:30
a.m. quake.

"It was very short but it felt really strong," said
74-year-old Juana Ruiz in the city's Spanish colonial center,
which was devastated by the earthquake 21 years ago that killed
at least 12,000 people.

The 5.9-magnitude quake was centered in the western state
of Michoacan, about 126 miles southwest of the Mexican capital
of 20 million people, according to the U.S. National Earthquake
Information Center. Two big aftershocks followed.

"For the moment, there are no reports of emergencies. Only
panic attacks. It's minimal. No buildings fell," said a
spokesman for Mexico City emergency services.

An official in Michoacan also reported no major damage.

Mexican authorities said the epicenter was near the town of
Huetamo, on the border of Michoacan and Guerrero states.

The quake rattled leftist protesters who had blocked access
to Mexico's main tax office downtown but they pressed on with a
demonstration to highlight what they say was fraud at the July
2 presidential election.

The leftists prevented employees from entering the building
in a protest over government support for conservative candidate
Felipe Calderon, who won the vote by less than 0.6 percentage


The center of Mexico City sits on the soft bed of a drained
lake and shakes easily with earthquakes.

Students at the capital's UNAM university, the biggest in
Latin America, ran out of the library in fear.

"I went out as well. I didn't want to die in the library,
squashed by books," said anthropology student Hector Parra.

Some hospitals in Mexico City evacuated patients who were
able to walk but there was no full-scale evacuation.

Office worker Lucero Martinez, 48, went through the 1985
earthquake and said Friday's was not big in comparison.

"You get scared but after going through such a strong one
nothing frightens you as much," she said outside her office in
the city center.

Some 2.6 million people poured out of buildings in the
capital last September in an evacuation drill to mark 20 years
since the 1985 earthquake, which laid waste to parts of the
city center.

Civil protection officials say Mexico City is better
prepared now for an earthquake and has stronger buildings and
rescue teams with state-of-the art communications.

The 1985 disaster spawned a host of protests and the
formation of citizens' groups angry at the government's weak
rescue efforts. Historians say that helped put Mexico on the
path to ending 71 years of one-party rule at presidential
elections in 2000.

(Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Lorraine
Orlandi and Catherine Bremer)