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Houses are seen on September 8, 2017 in Codrington, Antigua and Barbuda, devastated by Hurricane Irma. 
Hurricane Irma on Thursday slashed its way through the Caribbean towards the United States, transforming tropical island paradises into scenes of death and ruin. / AFP PHOTO / Gemma HANDY        (Photo credit should read GEMMA HANDY/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal government sends team to determine how Canada can help hurricane victims

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Sep 11th, 2017

The Canadian government is sending a team to the Caribbean to determine what help Canada can provide to victims of hurricane Irma.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the assessment team is headed for Antigua.

He says the team will look at what humanitarian assistance can be provided to the region.

Among the tools the government can use is its Disaster Assistance Response Team, made up of members of the military and civilians from Global Affairs Canada.

The DART can go to anywhere in the world on short notice to provide humanitarian assistance.

There were calls on the weekend for Canada to do more to help some of the Canadian citizens who were caught up in Irma’s wrath.

Nearly 300 Canadians have asked for assistance, Global Affairs said Sunday.


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Hurricane Irma downgraded to Category 2 as it pummels Florida
Toronto-based Global Medic sends volunteers to storm-stricken St. Maarten
Canadians in Florida brace for the worst as hurricane Irma descends

‘Pray for everybody’: Irma begins its assault on Florida

TAMARA LUSH AND JAY REEVES, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Sunday, Sep 10th, 2017

Patrick Danver, 67, of Satellite Beach, Fla. uses an umbrella to shield from the driving rain in South Patrick Shores, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 as Hurricane Irma made landfall in the state of Florida. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Hurricane Irma roared through the Florida Keys on Sunday with punishing 130 mph winds and began pushing its way north, knocking out power to more than 1.5 million people across the state and collapsing a construction crane over the Miami skyline.

The nearly 400-mile-wide storm is expected to make a slow, ruinous march up Florida’s west coast, straight toward the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area by Monday morning.

Streets emptied across the bottom half of the Florida peninsula, and some 127,000 people huddled in shelters.

“Pray, pray for everybody in Florida,” Gov. Rick Scott said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Flooding, roof damage and floating appliances and furniture were reported in the low-lying Keys, but with the storm still hitting around midday, the full extent of Irma’s wrath was not clear.

There were no immediate confirmed reports of any deaths from the storm.

While the projected track showed Irma raking the state’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state — including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people — was in extreme peril from the monstrously wide storm.

Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to get out of harm’s way, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

About 30,000 people heeded orders to evacuate the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused to leave, in part because to many storm-hardened residents, staying behind in the face of danger is a point of pride.

John Huston, who was riding out the storm at his Key Largo home, was already seeing flooding in his yard before the arrival of high tide. “Small boats floating down the street next to furniture and refrigerators. Very noisy,” he said by text message. “Shingles are coming off.”

In downtown Miami, one of two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed atop a high-rise in Irma’s winds. There was no immediate word on any damage or injuries. City officials said it would have taken about two weeks to have moved the cranes out of harm’s way.

Irma made landfall just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key, about 20 miles outside Key West, forecasters said. By late morning, it was advancing toward Florida’s southwestern corner, moving at 9 mph.

Key West Police urged anyone riding out the storm in that city to “resist the urge” to go outside during the eye, the deceptively calm interlude in the middle of a hurricane. “Dangerous winds will follow quickly,” police said in a Facebook post.

“Once this system passes through, it’s going to be a race to save lives and sustain lives,” Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said on “Fox News Sunday.”

With FEMA still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Irma could test the agency’s ability to handle two disasters at the same time.

Even before the extent of its potential devastation was clear, the storm made a huge swath of the peninsula’s bottom half unrecognizable.

Normally bustling streets were ghost towns. Famed party stretches including Duval Street in Key West and Ocean Drive on South Beach were shuttered. Sunday church services were called off, and theme parks were closed.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph) last week.

It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean, and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico’s bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, regained strength.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg area, with a population of about 3 million, has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921. The wind was already picking up in St. Petersburg, some 400 miles north the Keys, and people began bracing for the onslaught.

“I’ve been here with other storms, other hurricanes. But this one scares me,” Sally Carlson said she snapped photos of the waves crashing against boats. “Let’s just say a prayer we hope we make it through.”

The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby.

Forecasters warned that after charting up Florida’s west coast, a weakened Irma could push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, some 200 miles from the sea.

Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, Irma could prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

Hurricane Andrew smashed into suburban Miami in 1992 with winds topping 165 mph (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. The damage in Florida totalled $26 billion, and at least 40 people died.

Lush reported from St. Petersburg. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington; Terry Spencer in Palm Beach County; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee; Terrance Harris and Claire Galofaro in Orlando; and Freida Frisaro, Jason Dearen, Jennifer Kay and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.


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Medical students urge Ottawa to help Canadians stranded in St. Maarten

‘I’m scared to death,’ says Key West woman riding out storm

Canadians in Florida brace for the worst as hurricane Irma descends

Medical students urge Ottawa to help Canadians stranded in St. Maarten

DANIELA GERMANO, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Sunday, Sep 10th, 2017

sep10-st-maarten

Some Canadian medical students who managed to escape before hurricane Irma pummelled St. Maarten are urging the federal government to do more to bring home their colleagues who weren’t so lucky.

Dulani Samarappuli of Calgary, who just finished her first year at the American University of the Caribbean School, said she was one of five Canadians from the school who managed to board one of the last flights to Canada on Tuesday morning before the devastating storm hit.

“My plan was to pack up everything in the house, take shelter on campus and ride it out,” the 26-year-old said. “But the night they said Irma would be a Category 5, I started to get more nervous and so did other students.”

Samarappuli she and four other students decided at the last minute to go to the airport last minute to see if they could catch a flight to Toronto.

The Sunwing flight was booked, but Samarappuli said they were told to wait in case some passengers did not show up. Before takeoff, she said, they were able to board the plane.

The massive storm directly hit the island — which is divided between the French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten — early Wednesday, pounding its airport and leaving thousands of tourists and locals desperate to escape.

Dutch officials said the situation remained “grim” Saturday on the island where widespread looting had broken out and a state of emergency was in force.

Dutch government estimated Saturday that 70 per cent of houses were badly damaged or destroyed, leaving much of the 40,000 population in public shelters as they braced for the arrival of hurricane Jose.

Now safe at home, Samarappuli said she and about 25 other Canadian students from the school who fled St. Maarten in time have banded together to get all the Canadians hunkering down at the university back home.

They created an online petition that garnered more than 500 signatures as of Saturday night to draw attention to the situation in hopes that the Canadian government would do more to rescue citizens who are worried about their safety and running out of supplies.

“They have curfews in place in the evenings to keep people safe and at home, and students are not allowed to leave campus without security guards,” she said. “But they are definitely afraid as far as how much worse it could get.”

After Irma, aerial footage shot by Dutch marines showed that Maho Beach’s sands had washed away and the airport was badly damaged. The Dutch military is using the runway, which was inundated by high tides during the hurricane, to ferry in aid supplies but officials say it’s not yet open to civilian flights as there are no runway lights or air traffic control.

Samarappuli said some American students have been evacuated from the island by the U.S. military, adding Canada should do the same. Although Sunwing evacuated some Canadian tourists from St. Maarten to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, Samarappuli said she hasn’t heard of help coming from the Canadian government.

“I and all my colleagues have been trying all day and all week to try to reach government (officials) and get some sort of answers as to what they are doing to help and when that help is going to come,” she said. “So far we haven’t gotten any answers.”

The Canadian government said in a teleconference Saturday that it is closely monitoring the progress of Irma, as well as hurricane Jose.

Officials said they had received calls from about 222 Canadians across numerous Caribbean islands requesting consular help and disaster assessment teams are poised for deployment if necessary.

With files from The Associated Press


Related stories:

Hurricane Irma begins assault on Florida Keys

‘I’m scared to death,’ says Key West woman riding out storm

Canadians in Florida brace for the worst as hurricane Irma descends

Toronto-based Global Medic sends volunteers to storm-stricken St. Maarten

The Canadian Press | posted Sunday, Sep 10th, 2017

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A Toronto-based aid organization says it’s sent four people to storm-battered St. Maarten to deliver supplies to those affected by hurricane Irma.

Rahul Singh, executive director of Global Medic, says the agency’s volunteers are headed to the Caribbean country on a Sunwing rescue flight.

“Everyone’s trying to get out of the one place that we’re getting into,” he said.

St. Maarten, located on the Dutch side of an island divided between French and Dutch control, was devastated by the hurricane. An estimated 70 per cent of the homes were damaged or destroyed by Irma and four people have died, according to the Dutch government.

There was concern that hurricane Jose could hit the island Saturday night, but the Netherlands said the island was spared further damage because the storm passed farther from shore than expected.

Sunwing said its rescue flight left from Toronto on Sunday morning, and will drop off one tonne of humanitarian aid supplies, along with the Global Medic volunteers.

A representative for the Canadian airline said the flight will be picking up Canadians, Americans and Europeans stuck on the island.


Related stories:

Global Affairs Emergency Watch and Response Centre

Medical students urge Ottawa to help Canadians stranded in St. Maarten

Deadly Hurricane Irma plows into the Florida Keys

Canadians in Florida brace for the worst as hurricane Irma descends


Singh said his team of volunteers, which includes a paramedic, a firefighter and a pilot, will distribute hygiene kits and water purification kits, along with water purification units that will be used in hospitals.

“Our getting in could make the world of difference to the patients in that hospital with no clean water, to those 1,700 folks that are going to get aid, and to the overall emergency system,” he said.

On top of that, Singh said, they brought enough water purification tablets to purify a million litres of water.

“People have some pretty significant needs down there, and we’re racing against time to meet them,” Singh said.

He said the St. Maarten government has also asked that his team use drones to gather “aerial imaging and comprehensive mapping” of the damage.

More than 9,000 Canadians have registered with the Registration of Canadians Abroad Service in the region, Global Affairs said Sunday, but added that the number only provides an estimate since registration is voluntary. Out of those registered in the area, 296 Canadian citizens have requested assistance.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected, both Canadians abroad and their families at home,” spokeswoman Natasha Nystrom said in a statement. “During this difficult time, the Government of Canada is making every possible effort to assist Canadian citizens affected by hurricane Irma and those who may be affected by hurricane Jose.”

She said Canada’s diplomatic missions are working with local authorities, airlines and tour operators to further help affected Canadians.

Canada is also working with international partners such as the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, France and the Netherlands to information and co-ordinate our efforts, she added.

Hurricane Irma slams Turks and Caicos on path to Florida, 11 dead

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 8th, 2017

Orient Bay on the French Carribean island of Saint-Martin is seen on Sept. 7, 2017, after the passage of Hurricane Irma. GETTY IMAGES/AFP PHOTO/Lionel Chamoiseau
France, the Netherlands and Britain on September 7 rushed to provide water, emergency rations and rescue teams to territories in the Caribbean hit by Hurricane Irma, with aid efforts complicated by damage to local airports and harbours. The worst-affected island so far is Saint Martin, which is divided between the Netherlands and France, where French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed four people were killed and 50 more injured.

  / AFP PHOTO / Lionel CHAMOISEAU        (Photo credit should read LIONEL CHAMOISEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricane Irma battered the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday and Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts as the fearsome storm continued a rampage through the Caribbean that has killed at least 11 people, with Florida in its sights.

Waves as high as 20 feet (6 metres) were expected in the Turks and Caicos. Communications went down as the storm slammed into the islands, and the extent of the devastation was unclear.

The first hurricane warnings were issued for parts of southern Florida as the state braced for what could be a catastrophic hit over the weekend. Following in Irma’s wake was Hurricane Jose, with some of the islands hit hardest by Irma in its expected path.

Irma weakened from a Category 5 storm to Category 4 on Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph (250 kph), but it remained a powerful hurricane.

Irma rolled past the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and spun along the northern coast of Cuba on Friday morning. Thousands of tourists were evacuated from low-lying keys off the Cuban coast Thursday in anticipation of 20-foot storm surges. Buses loaded with tourists began streaming out of Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and other keys dotted with all-inclusive resorts.

All residents of the area were under mandatory evacuation orders from the Cuban government, which was moving tens of thousands of people from vulnerable coastline.

French, British and Dutch military authorities rushed aid to a devastated string of Caribbean islands where at least 11 people were dead and thousands homeless. Warships and planes were sent with food, water and troops after the hurricane smashed homes, schools and roads, laying waste to some of the world’s most beautiful and exclusive tourist destinations.

The first islands hit by the storm were scenes of terrible destruction.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday that four people were confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the French side of St. Martin, an island split between Dutch and French control, where homes were splintered and road signs scattered by the fierce winds. The cafes and clothing shops of the picturesque seaside village of Marigot were submerged in brown floodwaters. The toll could rise because rescue teams had yet to get a complete look at the damage.

The U.S. Consulate General in Curacao said it believes about 6,000 Americans are stranded on St. Martin. It said it was working with the U.S. and other governments to try to figure out how to get the Americans off the island either by air or boat. Frantic Americans were calling home to relatives to try to get them off the island ahead of Hurricane Jose.

At least four people were killed in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and officials said they expected to find more bodies. Authorities described the damage as catastrophic and said crews were struggling to reopen roads and restore power.

Three more deaths were reported on the British island of Anguilla, as well as Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.

The hospital on St. Thomas was destroyed and dozens of patients were being evacuated to St. Croix and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Coast Guard. Local official said a U.S. Navy hospital ship was arriving as early as Friday to care for unknown numbers of injured and two Air Force C-130s transport planes were bringing in food and water.

Power lines and towers were toppled, leaves were stripped off plants and trees, a water and sewage treatment plants was heavily damaged and the harbour was in ruins, along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses. Gov. Kenneth Mapp imposed a 6 p.m. curfew.

The primary focus for now is “making sure people have meals, water and shelter,” Mapp said. “An event of this magnitude is very chilling.”

Irma also slammed the French island of St. Barts, tearing off roofs and knocking out electricity in the high-end tourist destination.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said 100,000 food rations were sent to St. Barts and St. Martin, the equivalent of four days of supplies.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the storm “caused wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.”

“There is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world,” he said.

Big waves smashed a dozen homes into rubble in the Dominican fishing community of Nagua, but work crews said all the residents had left before the storm. Officials said 11,200 people in all had evacuated vulnerable areas, while 55,000 soldiers had been deployed to help the cleanup.

In Haiti, two people were injured by a falling tree, a national roadway was blocked by debris and roofs were torn from houses along the northern coast but there were no immediate reports of deaths. Officials warned that could change as Irma continued to lash Haiti, where deforested hillsides are prone to devastating mudslides that have wiped out entire neighbourhoods of precariously built homes in flood zones.

“We are vulnerable. We don’t have any equipment to help the population,” Josue Alusma, mayor of the northern city of Port de Paix, said on Radio Zenith FM.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he would go to the islands as soon as the weather permits it.

On Barbuda, nearly every building was damaged when the hurricane’s core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday. About 60 per cent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.

Hundreds of miles to the west, Florida prepared for Irma’s wrath, with forecasters warning the storm could slam headlong into the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, punish the entire length of the state’s Atlantic coast and move into Georgia and South Carolina.

More than a half-million people in Miami-Dade County were ordered to leave as Irma closed in.

Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, said Irma could easily prove to be the costliest storm in U.S. history.

“Take it seriously, because this is the real deal,” said Maj. Jeremy DeHart, a U.S. Air Force Reserve weather officer who flew through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet (3,048 metres).

Farther out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose strengthened into a Category 3 storm with 120 mph (195 kph) winds and posed a potential threat for Saturday to some of the same islands ravaged by Irma.

Irma, the most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded, appeared increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida on Sunday afternoon after sweeping along Cuba’s northern coast on Saturday.

People in Florida rushed to board up their homes, take their boats out of the water and gas up their cars. With gasoline running out and tensions rising, the Florida Highway Patrol escorted tanker trucks sent to replenish gas stations.

“It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate.”

Fox reported from Miami. Associated Press writers Ian Brown in St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands; Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Ezequiel Lopez Abiu in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Anika Kentish in St. John’s, Antigua; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Michael Weissenstein in Havana; and Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.

Ontario to open up dozens of storefronts to sell marijuana: sources

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 8th, 2017

An employee places marijuana on a scale for a client at the La Brea Collective medical marijuana dispensary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Reed Saxon

Ontario reportedly plans to open dozens of storefronts across the province to manage the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana after the federal government legalizes its recreational use.

Media reports citing industry and government sources say Ontario’s Liberal government will allow the sale of marijuana at 40 to 60 storefronts across the province to be operated by a government-owned entity and also allow online sales.

The sources say more storefronts would be added over time and would not be housed in existing Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets, an idea that had previously been floated by Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The locations of the stores would be determined after municipalities are consulted.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Health Minister Eric Hoskins are scheduled to reveal Ontario’s plan at a news conference on Friday morning.

The federal government plans to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by July 1, 2018, and leave it up to the provinces and territories to oversee distribution and sales.

 

Toronto vying to become Amazon’s second home in North America

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 8th, 2017

In this May 30, 2017, file photo, the Amazon logo is displayed at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Richard Drew

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he will be “leading the charge” to convince Amazon that it should call the city its second home.

Amazon announced on Thursday that it is hunting for a site for a new headquarters in North America, in addition to its sprawling Seattle hub.

Mayor Tory says he believes Toronto is a “prime candidate.”

“We are a bold, innovative city that has plenty of homegrown tech talent. We also continue to attract talent and companies from around the world… I will be leading the charge to make the case that Amazon should call Toronto home,” he said in a statement.

City staff are working with Toronto Global, a new agency dedicated to attracting global investment to Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, to put together an “attractive bid for this opportunity,” Tory added.

Amazon says that it will spend more than $5 billion US to build another headquarters in North America to house as many as 50,000 employees. The technology company plans to stay in its current Seattle headquarters and the new space will be “a full equal” of its current home, said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Cities have until Oct. 19 to apply through a special website, and Amazon said it will make a final decision next year.

While many cities will likely be clamouring to make their pitch to Amazon as well, candidates must meet specific requirements to be considered. Key criteria include: a prime location, access to mass transit and proximity to an international airport. Any potential site must have room to grow, as Amazon wants to expand its new headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade. That’s about the same size as its current home in Seattle.

Other Canadian cities, such as Waterloo or Vancouver, may also fit the bill. A spokesman for Waterloo mayor Dave Jaworsky says it is too early to comment.

Amazon said its search is open to any metropolitan area in North America that meets the parameters — the city itself doesn’t necessarily have to be a million people — but declined to say how open it was to going outside of the United States.

“We want to find a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit,” the company said on its search website, about why it was choosing its second headquarters through a public process.

Bezos has crowdsourced major decisions in the past. In June, just before Amazon announced its plan to buy organic grocer Whole Foods, the billionaire took to Twitter seeking ideas for a philanthropic strategy to give away some of his fortune. And tech companies have been known to set places in competition with each other: In vying to land Google’s ultra-fast broadband network, many cities used stunts and gimmickry to get the company’s attention. Topeka even informally renamed itself “Google, Kansas.”

In just the last month, Amazon announced plans to build three new warehouses that pack and ship packages in New York, Ohio and Oregon. And it recently paid close to $14 billion US for Whole Foods and its more than 465 stores. The company plans to hire 100,000 people by the middle of next year, adding to its current worldwide staff of more than 380,000.

Amazon’s current campus in Seattle takes up 8.1 million square feet, has 33 buildings and 24 restaurants and is home to more than 40,000 employees. At the second headquarters, Amazon said it will hire up to 50,000 new full-time employees over the next 15 years who would have an average pay of more than $100,000 US a year.

Amazon’s website about the search lauds the benefits it can bring to a community. And Amazon’s arrival could transform an area: Until 10 years ago, the neighbourhood near Seattle’s campus just north of downtown was dotted with auto parts stores and low-rent apartments. Now the area is a booming pocket of high-rise office complexes, sleek apartment buildings and tony restaurants.

However, Amazon’s rise has not been without local critics, who say the influx of mostly well-heeled tech workers has caused housing prices to skyrocket, clogged the streets with traffic and changed the city for the worse. The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the median price for a house in August in Seattle was $730,000, up almost 17 per cent in a year.

With files from the Associated Press

 

Mexico hit by biggest earthquake in a century, country’s president says

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 8th, 2017

Debris from a collapsed wall sits in Oaxaca, Mexico, after an earthquake on Sept. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Luis Alberto Cruz)

A major earthquake off Mexico’s southern coast killed at least five people, with the president saying Friday it was the biggest in a century to hit the country. Houses and at least one hotel toppled, electricity was cut and people fled into the streets in panic.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported the earthquake’s magnitude as 8.1, but President Enrique Pena Nieto quoted local calculations it was 8.2, making it the largest in Mexico in 100 years – even larger than the magnitude 8.1 quake in 1985, which killed thousands and devastated large sections of Mexico City.

Officials said at least five people died, but the death toll could rise as authorities assess the damage. The government closed schools Friday in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

The USGS recorded at least 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater within about five hours after the main shake, and the president warned that a major aftershock as large as magnitude 7.2 could occur.

Pena Nieto said that serious damage had been caused and that 1 million customers initially had been without power following the quake, but that electricity had been restored to 800,000 of them.

The USGS said the quake struck at 11:49 p.m. Thursday local time and its epicenter was 165 kilometres west of Tapachula in Chiapas, close to Guatemala. It had a depth of 69.7 kilometres.

The quake caused buildings to sway violently in Mexico’s capital more than 1,000 kilometres (650 miles) away. Residents fled buildings, many in their pyjamas, and gathered in frightened groups in the street. Some neighbourhoods remained in darkness after electricity was knocked out.

“The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily,” said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in the southernmost state of Chiapas.

Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco said that three people were killed in San Cristobal, including two women who died when a house and a wall collapsed. He called on people living near the coast to leave their houses as a protective measure.

“There is damage to hospitals that have lost energy,” he said. “Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged.”

Tabasco Gov. Arturo Nunez said two children had died in his Gulf coast state. One of them was killed when a wall collapsed, and the other was a baby who died in a children’s hospital that lost electricity, cutting off the infant’s ventilator.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said waves of one meter above the tide level were measured off Salina Cruz, Mexico. Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges in several other places. The centre’s forecast said Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala could see waves of a meter or less. No threat was posed to Hawaii and the western and South Pacific.

Mexican authorities said they were evacuating some residents of coastal Puerto Madero because of the warning.

Meanwhile, Mexico was bracing for another natural emergency on the other side of the country. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Katia was likely to strike the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz early Saturday as a Category 2 storm that could bring life-threatening floods.

In neighbouring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales spoke on national television to call for calm while emergency crews checked for damage.

“We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have details,” Morales said. He said the unconfirmed death occurred in San Marcos state near the border with Mexico.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, said such a quake was to be expected.

“Off the west coast of Mexico is what’s called the subduction zone, the Pacific Plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula,” she said. “It’s a very flat fault, so it’s a place that has big earthquakes relatively often because of that.”

“There’s likely to be a small tsunami going to the southwest. It’s not going to be coming up and affecting California or Hawaii,” she said. “For tsunami generation, an 8 is relatively small.”

The Associated Press’ Frank Griffiths in London contributed to this report

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