Locals said “the 19th is a day to be feared” after the magnitude 7.6 earthquake sparked tsunami warnings for the US and left buildings smashed as it struck western Mexico on Monday, on the anniversary of two other devastating tremors.
Two people tragically died as extensive damage was done to infrastructure, with buildings pummelled and power knocked out as residents scrambled for safety.
The deaths happened in the Pacific port of Manzanillo where authorities said that one victim was crushed by the façade of a department store that fell on top of them, while another was found dead at a shopping centre.
Videos shared on social media showed the roof of the shopping mall collapsed as people could be heard screaming and begging for help.
The quake struck shortly after 1pm local time – around 7pm in Britain – near the country’s west coast and close to Michoacan’s border with the state of Colima where a major port is located.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said it was a relatively shallow incident at only nine miles deep – meaning this would have amplified its impact.
The huge quake triggered fears it might kickstart a tsunami and the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas.
It said waves could reach up to three metres above the tidal level following the quake.
Several hospitals were reportedly damaged in the western state of Michoacan near the epicentre of the quake – which was in a sparsely populated part of Mexico.
At one of the hospitals a person was injured by falling glass. But Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said there were no reports of major damage in the capital.
The earthquake struck the same day as previous destructive earthquakes battered the country in 1985 and in 2017.
Isa Montes, a 34-year-old graphic designer in the capital said: “It seems like a curse.”
Ernesto Lanzette, a business owner in the Mexican capital, said: “It’s this date. There’s something about the 19th. The 19th is a day to be feared.”
Thousands tragically died in the earthquake on September 19, in 1985, and over 350 died in the quake on the same day in 2017.
Mexican authorities sounded the alarm almost a full two minutes before the earthquake, giving people time to evacuate.
But, in the capital, some people didn’t think the alarm was real as the government had already sounded it earlier the same day in a practice exercise commemorating the past earthquakes.
In Coalcoman, Michoacan, not far from the epicentre, pictures show building walls cracked by the sheer force of the earthquake.
Power outages caused by the natural disaster affected some 1.2million people whilst residents could be seen standing in streets, cradling pets as it struck.
Clara Ferri, who owns an Italian bookshop in Roma, a neighbourhood in Mexico City, said she told a customer to get out as soon as she heard the windows.
“It was like the dentist’s drill for me,” she said. The rumbling grew in intensity, and as she gathered with neighbours in the streets she could only watch as her eight-storey building swayed from side-to-side.
When she got back to her shop the shelves had been toppled like dominoes and thousands of books lay on the floor.
Outside, masonry littered the paths and officials had to rope areas off as residents trickled out with their pets and suitcases, ready to spend the night somewhere else.