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Powerful earthquake hits southwest Mexico

Five months after a major earthquake devastated Mexico City, a powerful tremor has struck the country again. A helicopter carrying government officials who were to examine the damage crashed in an unrelated incident.

A powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico on Friday, causing minor building damage and panic in the capital, just five months after an earthquake killed hundreds of people.

The US Geological Survey put the epicenter 37 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Pinotepa de Don Luis in the southwestern state of Oaxaca. This was away from major urban centers, but it was powerful enough to leave tall buildings swaying for more than a minute in Mexico City, more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) away.

Shortly afterward, a magnitude 5.8 aftershock hit with a similar epicenter.

Local media published images and videos showing bricks and rubble that had fallen from buildings, and products falling off shelves in a supermarket.

Helicopter crash kills 13

Also on Saturday, officials said a helicopter with the Mexican interior minister and a state governor on board crashed near the center of the earthquake in the country's south, killing 13 people on the ground.

Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca governor Alejandro Murat had been on their way to examine the scene left by the earthquake when the accident happened.

Navarrete told Mexico's Televisa network that a number of the helicopter's passengers were injured and that the pilot of the military helicopter, which had flown from Mexico City to Pinotepa de Don Luis, some 37 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of the epicenter, lost control of the chopper 40 meters above the ground as it was coming in to land.

Read more: Waterfalls dry up after Mexico quakes

Fear of a repeat

Panicked residents ran into the street in Mexico City, fearing a repeat of September's deadly earthquake.

"To be honest, we're all pretty upset. We start crying whenever the [earthquake] alarm goes off. We're stressed out, we have flashbacks. So we run out into the street. It's all we can do," 38-year-old publicist Kevin Valladolid told the Agence France-Presse news agency through tears in central Mexico City.

"It was awful," Mercedes Rojas Huerta, 57, told The Associated Press, too frightened to go back inside. "It started to shake; the cars were going here and there. What do I do?"

Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete said there had been some superficial damage to buildings in Oaxaca, but that no deaths had been reported.

The US National Weather service said it was not issuing a tsunami alert.

Read more: Mexico City honors earthquake victims in Day of the Dead parade

aw/cmk (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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