Phoenix man recounts Mexico City earthquake, others wait to hear from loved ones

A massive 7.1-magnitude quake destroyed buildings on the anniversary of the 1985 quake that prompted building code changes in Mexico City.

A powerful earthquake violently shook Mexico City Tuesday afternoon, collapsing buildings and sending people running into the streets.

When the 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit, Jovan Cuadras was wrapping up his vacation. He’d just boarded a plane at the city's international airport to head home to Phoenix.

“I didn't realize it was an earthquake at first,” Cuadras said. “We were literally on the runway starting to go and the plane just starts shaking. Pretty crazy."

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"It got pretty bad and once it was over we realized it was an earthquake and you see people running out of the airport and broken windows,” he told 12 News.

The strength of the tremor took down buildings, buried people and claimed the lives of at least 150 people Tuesday night.

"We were looking at videos after and just seeing all the damage and destruction that happened, it was very terrifying,” Cuadras said.

He couldn’t believe some of the neighborhoods he’d just visited were now reduced to rubble.

"It was crazy to see that we were just literally there and that can happen at any moment,” Cuadras said.

Images of the widespread devastation quickly spread on social media, which only increased the panic for those unable to get a hold of their loved ones.

ALSO: Death toll climbs after powerful earthquake rocks Mexico

“I am really worried and of course that is scary because I'm sure there were people inside of those buildings,” said Grace Vasquez.

Vasquez, who has relatives in the Phoenix area, was shopping in a store just outside Mexico City when the building started to shake.

"Suddenly everything started to move and everybody started to scream and run away,” she said. “It was a really weird sensation."

She's since been able to reach her relatives and verify they're all safe but some of her friends haven't been as lucky.

"I know a lot of people that don't know about their families and they're really worried," she said.

Cuadras was able to fly out of Mexico City before they cancelled most of the flights.

Mexican authorities are really just at the beginning of assessing all the damage.

For now, the death toll continues to rise. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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