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Death toll increases after Mexico's strongest earthquake in a century

By Doug G. Ware and Danielle Haynes
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Death toll increases after Mexico's strongest earthquake in a century
Emergency personnel clean debris in Mexico City, Mexico, early Friday after a 8.1 magnitude earthquake violently shook the country. Photo by EFE/Sashenka Gutierrez/EPA

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Dozens of people are dead in Mexico after the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in 100 years, officials said Friday.

Authorities began confirming death counts Friday morning, hours after the 8.1-magnitude quake hit Pijijiapan along Mexico's southern coast, just before midnight Thursday.

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The quake was strong enough to be felt in Mexico City, 630 miles to the northwest. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the magnitude at 8.1, but other institutions rated it between 8.2 and 8.4.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a news conference Friday that the earthquake was the strongest to hit the nation in a century -- and that 50 million Mexicans felt shaking.

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"The national emergency committee will remain active to assess damage and coordinate actions of care for the population," he tweeted early Friday.

The death toll will almost certainly rise, officials said. At least 60 people were reported dead by mid-Friday morning. The Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco confirmed a number of deaths in their regions.

Peña Nieto said at least 200 people were injured and some 260 aftershocks rocked the region. At last 200,000 people were without power.

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Eduardo Mendoza, the senior program manager for Direct Relief, told ABC News that the town of Juchitan in Oaxaca state "was completely leveled." Direct Relief is a non-profit organization that supplies medicine to those who can't afford it and to regions hit by disasters.

"Many of them are running out of their homes or it collapses and they can't get their medicine that they need," he said of those affected by the earthquake. "There's a lot of diabetics."

The quake triggered tsunami waves as high as 10 feet, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

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