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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mexican Quake Kills 21, Leaves Dozens Homeless

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- A powerful earthquake ripped through western and central Mexico, killing at least 21 people, destroying dozens of houses and leaving the worst-hit state shrouded in darkness with power outages.

The death toll continued to rise Wednesday as emergency crews surveyed the extent of the damage hours after the ground had stopped shaking.

The quake struck at 8:07 p.m. Tuesday in Colima, a small state that includes the port city of Manzanillo, about 480 kilometers west of Mexico City.

Mexico's national seismological service put the quake's magnitude at 7.6, but the U.S. Geological Survey calculated it at 7.8.

"Because of the size of the earthquake and its shallow depth, USGS is expecting substantial damage," said USGS spokesman Butch Kinerney.

Colima Governor Fernando Moreno Pena said 19 people were killed, nine in the capital city of Colima and 10 others elsewhere in his state. Radio reports said most of the victims died after portions of office and residential buildings collapsed near the center of Colima City.

Nearly all of the state remained without electricity and phone service early Wednesday, Moreno Pena said.

In Guadalajara, Jalisco's capital and Mexico's second-largest city, the quake leveled 40 homes and left more than 100 people homeless, authorities said.

An 85-year-old woman in the town of Zapotitlan was crushed by a falling security wall that had ringed her yard. A 1-year-old girl also died in Zapotitlan, but the circumstances surrounding her death remained unclear, authorities said early Wednesday.

President Vicente Fox ordered the military to search for damage near the quake's epicenter, a region including remote villages outside Jalisco and Colima.

The quake swayed buildings, briefly knocked out power and telephone service and sent panicked residents running into the streets in Mexico City, but officials said there were no reports of deaths or serious damage there.

Immediately after the quake, police cars drove slowly through the streets of Mexico City asking people over loudspeakers: "Is everything OK?"

They encountered residents gathered in small groups, many shaking with fear. Others raced to escape the earthquake's wrath so quickly that they had no shoes to cover their bare feet or had grabbed little more than a blanket for cover.

Some earthquakes of magnitude 7 have caused massive damage, but the effect of a quake can be affected by many factors, including its depth and the sort of earth through which it passes as it moves away from the epicenter.

Mexico City is built atop a former lake bed in a valley that acts as a sort of amplifier for the motion of quakes.

The last substantial earthquake in the Colima area was in 1995. It registered 8 magnitude and killed 49 people. At least 100 people were injured in that quake, which was a little northwest of Tuesday's earthquake.