MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A magnitude 6.2 earthquake that shook Mexico on Saturday was blamed for five deaths, spreading fear among a population reeling from multiple natural disasters and interrupting the search for survivors from a bigger tremor earlier this week.
South of Mexico City, the Popocatepetl volcano sent a column of ash into the sky, capping a period of seismic activity including two powerful tremors this month that have killed more than 400 people and caused damages of up to $8 billion.
Mexico’s capital was shattered by Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake that flattened dozens of buildings and killed at least 307 people. The government’s response to the disaster is under close scrutiny ahead of a presidential election next year.
Although the latest quake was not as destructive, fear is running high among the population. Terrified residents crouched and prayed when the alarms went off and two women died of heart attacks as the ground shook, the city government said.
Concern that the quake could cause further collapses paralyzed rescue efforts at a housing complex in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City, frustrating first responders who earlier believed people were alive under the rubble.
By the evening, hard-hatted first responders were again digging for bodies or survivors. Elsewhere, the work barely skipped a beat when earthquake alarms twice rang out across the streets of the city.
The United States Geological Survey said the latest quake was relatively shallow with an epicenter near Juchitan, a tropical region of Oaxaca state hard hit by a massive 8.1 magnitude tremor that struck on Sept. 7.
Three people died during Saturday’s tremor in Oaxaca, including a man who was attacked by a swarm of wild bees, authorities said.
Mexico’s seismological authorities said Saturday’s quake was an aftershock of that tremor, which was the strongest to hit the country in 85 years and killed at least 98 people.
The Popocatepetl volcano, which is visible on a clear day to the approximately 20 million people that live in the Mexico City metropolitan region, spewed vapor and ash-filled gas after two small eruptions on Saturday.
Dozens of buildings were brought to the ground by Tuesday’s earthquake and an army of trained rescuers and scores of volunteers have been…