By Calvin Palmer
A strong earthquake in Mexico rattled tall buildings in Mexico City today and sent office workings rushing out into the streets.
The 5.6 earthquake had its epicenter near Chilpancingo, about 130 miles southwest of Mexico City. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
U.S. Geological Survey analyst Don Blakeman said the quake was felt strongly in Mexico City because the epicenter was relatively shallow and the ground under the capital — which is built on a former lake bed — tends to intensify shock waves.
The quake increased the sense of fear among residents of the capital city, which is already grappling with an outbreak of swine flu.
Sarai Luna Pajas, a 22-year-old social services worker, said: “We Mexicans are not used to living with so much fear, but all that is happening — the economic crisis, the illnesses and now this — it feels like the Apocalypse.”
Co-worker Harold Gutierrez, 21, said the country was taking comfort from its religious faith, but he too was gripped by a sesne that the world might be coming to an end.
“If it is, it is God’s plan,” Gutierrez said, speaking over a green mask he wore to ward off swine flu.
Mexico closed all its schools today as the death toll from suspected swine flu reached 149.
Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said 20 of the deaths have been confirmed to be from swine flu and the government was awaiting results on the other deaths.
“We are the most critical moment of the epidemic,” he said. “The number of cases will keep rising so we have to reinforce preventative measures.”
Cordova said 1,995 people have been hospitalized with serious cases of pneumonia since the first case of swine flu was reported on April 13. The government does not yet know how many were swine flu.
Of those hospitalized, 1,070 have been released.
Cordova said school at all levels nationwide were suspended until May 6, extending an order already in place in Mexico City and five of the country’s 32 states.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]