The quake, which was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, had a preliminary magnitude of 8.1 and depth of 69.7 kilomteres (43 miles), according to the USGS. It was a particularly shallow quake, according to Jana Pursely, a geophysicist at the USGS.
It struck off the Pacific Coast 74 miles (120 kilometers) at 11:49 p.m. ET southwest of Tres Picos, Mexico, which is 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City. It was close to both the Mexican states of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, and Oaxaca in the Middle America trench.
It is a “prime location” for earthquakes, according to CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis.
“The shaking along the coast of Chiapas at this point is estimated to be very strong to severe,” Pursely told CNN. “I would expect damage along the coast of Chiapas.”
Video on social media showed significant tremors in various parts of the country and significant damage.
One video showed Mexico’s famous Angel of Independence statue shaking
Pursely said these types of shallow earthquakes have the potential to be very dangerous.
The USGS has reported four aftershocks with tremors measuring above 5.0 in magnitude and a fifth at 4.9.
Paulaina Gomez-Wulschner said she heard an earthquake alarm go off on the radio as she was driving in Mexico City.
“This was a very, very strong earthquake, one of the strongest I’ve felt, and I was here in 1985 when that earthquake collapsed Mexico City,” she told CNN.
When it struck, she parked her car and joined others stood in the middle of the street to avoid falling objects.
“It was very scary,” she said.
Gomez-Wulschner said she could hear sirens, ambulances and helicopters in the aftermath, but did not see any immediate damage near her.
On his verified twitter account, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted, “Civil protection protocols are activated, including the National Emergency Committee.”
A tsunami threat is being evaluated by the Tsunami Warning System. The Tsunami Warning Center advised the public that tsunami waves could hit within three hours off the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and even Ecuador.
CNN attempted to contact two seaside hotels in the Mexican state of Chiapas but the lines appeared to be down.
A receptionist at the Intercontinental in Mexico City said he only felt light shaking, however parts of the city are without power, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said in an interview on Foro TV.( CNN / IM )