- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

COLIMA, Mexico, Jan. 22 (UPI) — An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 hit the Pacific coastal town of Colima in Mexico on Tuesday at about 9:06 p.m. ET, with initial reports putting the death toll at about 19.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially put the magnitude at 7.3 but later raised it to 7.8.

The quake was felt more than 300 miles away in the country's capital, Mexico City, CNN reports. The network earlier quoted the governor of Colima State, Fernando Moreno Pena, as saying that the death toll was 19.

Early on Wednesday, the director of emergency management for the nation's Civil Protection Agency told the network that the CPA had confirmed 16 deaths in Colima, with three other unconfirmed fatalities. The CPA's Carlos Gelista said one unconfirmed fatality had been reported in Jalisco State.

The USGS said damage had been reported in the states of Colima (where the city of the same name is located), Michoacan and Jalisco. It said that the quake might have "caused substantial damage and casualties due to its location and size."

Quakes stronger than 7.0 can cause significant damage.

According to CNN, residents throughout Colima reported power outages. It quoted one man in a nearby town as saying that the quake was very strong but lasted less than one minute.

In Mexico City, CNN said, buildings swayed and residents gathered in the streets as a precaution. There were reported power outages in up to one-third of the city.

The San Antonio Express-News' correspondent in Mexico City spoke with the director of the civil defense division there, who said that broken gas mains were posing a danger of explosion. On one main thoroughfare, the newspaper said, firefighters were at a high-rise where there was a gas leak.

The quake's effects were noted about 600 miles away, in the Rio Grande Valley town of Weslaco, Texas. This town is about eight miles from the Mexican border and about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, between Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. In Weslaco, a local TV station — KRGV — said it had received reports from residents who saw "water in their swimming pools rolling back and forth, around the time the earthquake hit."

According to the USGS, the quake on Tuesday was the largest in the area since Oct. 9, 1995, when a magnitude 8.0 quake killed at least 49 people.

Tuesday's quake, the USGS said, was a shallow one that occurred in a seismically active zone near the coast of central Mexico. The quake occurred near the juncture of three tectonic plates.

It was centered at 18.8 N and 103.9 W, and its depth was estimated at 20.5 miles.

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