Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said at least 27 buildings had collapsed in the capital after the quake struck at 1.15pm local time (7.15pm BST). Mr Nieto said there are several reports of people trapped either beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings or inside burning ones.
The nation’s president later confirmed 22 bodies had been recovered from a collapsed school in Mexico City where 38 people remain missing. The governor of the neighbouring state of Morelos said at least 42 people had been killed there.
Five more people died in the State of Mexico, governor Alfredo Del Mazo told local TV. Meanwhile Mexican officials have said the total death toll so far is at least 149 people. The disaster coincides with the anniversary of a deadly 1985 earthquake which shook central Mexico. Tuesday’s quake struck at 1:14 p.m. Just hours after a siren signaled an annual earthquake drill in Mexico City, the ground began to shake, walls buckled and residents fled into the streets. There were reports of fires and gas leaks.
Fernando Clemente, a civil protection official in the state of Puebla, said two people were killed after a school collapsed.
The US Geological Survey said the quake hit five miles southeast of Atencingo in the state of Puebla, about 100 miles south of Mexico City, at a depth of 32 miles.
Several people were pulled alive from rubble in the Mexican capital, but others were feared trapped. Local radio in the city of Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos located about 35 miles south of Mexico City, also reported that people were pinned beneath collapsed buildings there, according to Reuters. A major highway connecting Cuernavaca to Mexico City also appeared badly damaged, according to photos circulating on social media.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 76 miles southeast of the capital, near the town of Raboso in Puebla.
Photos showed collapsed buildings in Mexico City. It also showed emergency workers in yellow hard hats as they scrambled over mountains of debris — twisted metal beams, chunks of plaster and broken glass — where structures had once stood. Cars were nearly buried in rubble. Residents were seen embracing and crying in the streets after they raced out of their homes.
A large number of hospital patients have been photographed receiving treatment outside the facility for fear the building may collapse. Dentist Claudia Meneses said she was in her clinic in Mexico City’s Lindavista neighbourhood when the earthquake struck.
“People are really scared right now,” she said. “We’re going to go to a building that fell to see if we can help.”
President Nieto was on a flight to Oaxaca, one of the hardest hit areas by that quake, but has since tweeted that he was immediately returning to attend to the quake in Mexico City.
In a Twitter message Tuesday after receiving news of the quake, President Trump wrote: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”
Just two hours before the quake struck, people had been taking part in evacuation drills on the anniversary of one of Mexico’s deadliest earthquakes which struck in 1985.
The city and its surrounding area are home to about 20 million people.
Fears that the quake could cause a tsunami in the Pacific ocean have been dismissed by officials from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, who said it was too far inland to generate such a wave.