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7.4 quake rocks Mexico

A strong 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico today, damaging some 800 homes near the epicentre and swaying tall buildings and spreading fear and panic hundreds of miles away in the capital of Mexico City.

One of the strongest to shake Mexico since the deadly 1985 tremor that killed thousands in Mexico City, yesterday's earthquake hit hardest in the border area of southern Oaxaca and Guerrero states.

In Guerrero, officials confirmed that some 800 homes had been damaged, with another 60 having collapsed.

Long after the shaking at noon local time, there were still no reports of death, even after a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock was felt in the capital and several other aftershocks near the epicentre in a mountainous rural region.

Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said late last night that nine people were injured in Oaxaca and two in Mexico City, but no one had died.

"It was very strong, very substantial," said Campos Benitez, hospital director in Ometepec, about 15 miles from the epicentre.

Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre, who is from Ometepec, was headed there to survey the damage and ordered emergency crews and civil protection to the area to help with the damage. The state did not say how many were displaced.

In Mexico City, frightened workers and residents poured into the streets of the capital.

Telephone service was down in the city and throughout the area where the quake was felt and some neighbourhoods were without power, according to Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who set up a hotline for people to report damage.

A pedestrian bridge collapsed on an empty transit bus.

About 40 passengers were stranded for a short time on the Mexico City airport air train, but later released.

The airport closed for a time but officials said there was no runway damage and they resumed operations.

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