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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

15 Killed in Mexico Earthquake

PUEBLA, Mexico -- A strong earthquake destroyed homes, toppled church towers and damaged other colonial-era buildings in central Mexico, killing at least 15 people and injuring hundreds.

Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo declared the state of Puebla a disaster area after the magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Tuesday afternoon.

"It felt very strong. It was a jumping movement,'' said Raimundo Villas, 20, an industrial engineer. "We saw one man come out of a store to get into his car'' just before a building's cornice plunged, crushing him to death.

Mexico's National Seismological Service said the earthquake was centered near Huajuapan de Leon, 130 kilometers south of Puebla. The U.S. Geological Survey calculated the epicenter at 110 kilometers southeast of here, near the city of Tehuacan.

"I believe we have been relatively lucky, although we always must regret losses,'' Zedillo said late Tuesday outside the San Agustin church in Puebla, 95 kilometers east of Mexico City. The church's tower collapsed in the quake.

Puebla state Governor Melquiades Morales Flores said at least 11 people died in the state. Veracruz state officials said a workman was killed in a rock slide in Huatuzco. Two people died in Mexico City and one in the western state of Guerrero, the Interior Ministry said.

The quake took a heavy toll on the colonial-era buildings for which Puebla, a city of 1.2 million people, is famed. While most basic structures stood up well, cupolas, towers and cornices often cracked, and some crashed to the ground.

But modern buildings also were damaged. One four-story apartment building collapsed completely and the bottom two floors of another collapsed. Soldiers said they had pulled residents from the wreckage and, miraculously, no one was killed or injured.

Hundreds of troops patrolled streets strewn with rubble and glass early Wednesday, helping in rescue and cleanup.

Some residents took matters into their own hands. Outside the La Soledad church, with a cracked and leaning 30-meter bell tower, residents roped off the street to block traffic Tuesday.

Dr. Alejandro Soto, director of the Puebla Red Cross, said 200 people suffered at least minor injuries and 10 were seriously hurt.

The quake knocked out electricity and telephone service in Huajuapan de Leon, a city of 200,000 people, but no injuries or major damage was reported.

Mexico City had relatively little damage, but tall buildings swayed with the quake, sending tens of thousands of people into the streets. Telephone service and power were disrupted in some areas.