A strong earthquake struck central Mexico on Monday, swaying tall buildings in the capital and rattling nerves in a city already tense from a swine flu outbreak suspected of killing as many as 149 people nationwide
Near the epicenter in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, two women aged 67 and 75 died of heart attacks during or shortly after the earthquake, and four homes and a perimeter wall collapsed in and around the resort of Acapulco, state police reported.
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"I'm scared," said Sarai Luna Pajas, a 22-year-old social services worker standing outside her Mexico City office building moments after it hit. "We Mexicans are not used to living with so much fear, but all that is happening — the economic crisis, the illnesses and now this — it feels like the Apocalypse."
Co-worker Harold Gutierrez, 21, said the country was taking comfort from its religious faith, but he too was gripped by the sensation that the world might be coming to an end.
"If it is, it is God's plan," Gutierrez said, speaking over a green mask he wore to ward off swine flu.
There were no reports of injuries or major damages in Mexico City.
The quake had a magnitude of 5.6 and was centered near Chilpancingo, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) southwest of Mexico City or 50 miles from Acapulco, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Tourists also streamed out of hotels in Acapulco and congregated on sidewalks and medians for several minutes. Local Civil Protection officer Silvia Rodriguez said there were no injuries there.
USGS earthquake analyst Don Blakeman said the quake was felt strongly in Mexico City because the epicenter was relatively shallow and the ground under the capital — which is built on a former lake bed — tends to intensify shock waves.
"Distant quakes are often felt" strongly in the city, he said.
The USGS revised the quake's magnitude down from its preliminary estimate of 6.0, and said its depth was 30 miles.