Last Updated Sep 19, 2017 8:37 PM EDT
MEXICO CITY -- A powerful earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, killing more than 100 people, cracking building facades and scattering rubble on streets in the capital on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake.
The nationwide death toll rose to 119 on Tuesday evening, according to state and city officials.
The earthquake is the deadliest in Mexico since the 1985 quake that killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake left 90 dead in the country's south.
Scores of buildings collapsed into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings collapsed at 44 places in the capital alone. Between 50 and 60 people were pulled alive from the rubble by citizens and rescue workers in the city.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City.
The federal interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, said authorities had reports of people possibly still being trapped in collapsed buildings. He said search efforts were slow because of the fragility of rubble.
"It has to be done very carefully," he said. And "time is against us."
At one site, reporters saw onlookers cheer as a woman was pulled from the rubble. Rescuers immediately called for silence so that they could listen for others who might be trapped.
Puebla Gov. Tony Galil said there had been damaged buildings in the city of Cholula, including collapsed church steeples.
Earlier in the day, workplaces across the city held readiness drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.0 shake, which killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of Mexico City.
Thousands of Mexico City residents fled office buildings and hugged to calm each other along the central Reforma Avenue as alarms blared, and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument.
When the quake hit, freelance reporter Manuel Rueda was walking outside a bank in the city's financial district when buildings began to shake. "People here are are used to encountering these types of situations, but this time, I definitely sensed more fear from people," he said on CBSN.
Citizens played a crucial role in rescue efforts, like 26-year-old nutritionist Mariana Morales who was one of many that did everything they could to rescue others.
Morales wore a paper face mask and her hands were still dusty from having joined a rescue brigade to clear rubble from a building that fell in a cloud of dust before her eyes, about 15 minutes after the quake.
A dust-covered Carlos Mendoza, 30, said that he and other volunteers had been able to pull two people alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building after three hours of effort. "We saw this and came to help," he said. "It's ugly, very ugly."
Market stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she was in a taxi a few blocks away when the quake struck Tuesday. She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.
Video on social media showed debris falling from Mexico City's National Employment Service building. Residents can be heard screaming and crying as some ran away from the building.
President Trump tweeted his support for Mexico on Tuesday afternoon: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."
Earlier this month,after another earthquake struck, off Mexico's southern coast. It toppled hundreds of buildings, triggering tsunami evacuations and sending panicked people fleeing into the streets in the middle of the night.
Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist who spent years with the USGS, said Tuesday's earthquake is smaller than the Sept. 7 temblor, but that it struck closer to more residents.
"This earthquake is smaller but closer to many more people. So where the 8.2 was offshore -- and at a depth of 40 miles down -- this is only 80 miles from Mexico City, about 30 miles down, and with a lot of people nearby. Proximity makes a big difference," she told CBS News.
Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.
"Mexico City is built on dry lake bed. So there was a lake there, it dried out, it left behind these sediments that are very very loose. And so when the seismic waves come through them, the loose soil slows them down, but they still have all that energy so they have to get bigger to carry that loose soil," Jones explained.
"Here in downtown Los Angeles, we have a factor of five amplification because of soils. In Mexico City, it's over a factor of 100."
Mexico City's international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for any damage.
Initial calculations show that more than 30 million people would have felt moderate shaking from Tuesday's quake. The U.S. Geological Survey predicts "significant casualty and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread."
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