ROME — Pope Francis is praying for victims of a powerful earthquake in southern Mexico.
Francis spoke off the cuff during his weekly general audience on Wednesday to express his solidarity with Mexico. Speaking in his native Spanish, Francis said: “Yesterday a violent earthquake hit the south of Mexico causing victims, injuries and enormous damage. Let’s pray for them. May the help of God and our brothers give them strength and support. Brothers and sisters, I am very close to you.”
The Argentine pope visited Mexico, the world’s second-largest Catholic country, in 2016.
The 7.4 quake centered near the southern Mexico resort of Huatulco killed at least five people.
Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said one person was killed in a building collapse in Huatulco, located in Oaxaca state. Otherwise he said reports were of minor damage from the magnitude 7.4 quake, including broken windows and collapsed walls. Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat said a second person was killed in an apparent house collapse in the mountain village of San Juan Ozolotepec and a third died in circumstances he did not explain.
Federal civil defense authorities reported two more deaths: a worker at the state-run oil company, Pemex, fell to his death from a refinery structure, and a man died in the Oaxaca village of San Agustin Amatengo when a wall fell on him.
Pemex also said the quake caused a fire at its refinery in the Pacific coast city of Salina Cruz, relatively near the epicenter. It said one worker was injured and the flames were quickly extinguished. Churches, bridges and highways also suffered damage during the quake.
López Obrador said there had been more than 140 aftershocks, most of them small.
Seismic alarms sounded midmorning with enough warning for residents to exit buildings. Power was knocked out to some areas.
Helicopters flew over downtown Mexico City and police patrols sounded their sirens.
Groups of people still milled around in close proximity on streets and sidewalks in some neighborhoods of the capital about an hour after the quake. Many were not wearing masks despite past appeals from municipal officials for them to do so as a way to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.