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Mexico earthquake: 150 die in month's second major tremor

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Mexico City, killing scores throughout the region, reducing buildings to rubble and sending thousands fleeing in panic during the second temblor this month.

The quake ravaged the far-flung region of more than 20 million people, and images showed structures burning and exploding, some suddenly losing integrity and collapsing into billowing dust clouds. 150 people were confirmed dead, including 55 in Morelos, 49 in Mexico City and 32 in Puebla, National Civil Protection Coordinator Luis Felipe Puente said on Twitter.

Tuesday's quake struck 32 years to the day after a temblor with an 8.0 magnitude killed 5,000 people and hours after annual safety drills were held on the anniversary. The disaster temporarily closed the airport, stopped the metro and ended trading on the Mexican Stock Exchange. The exchange planned to open as normal Wednesday.

In Mexico City, smoke plumes rose near the financial thoroughfare of Paseo de La Reforma, which was flooded with people as buildings swayed. Fallen concrete and shattered glass littered the streets.

Hours later, as the shock wore off, rescue workers and volunteers worked frantically to save their neighbours. Military personnel and paramedics worked on the rooftop of a partially collapsed building in the Roma Norte district as a crowd of hundreds gathered in the street below.

At least 27 buildings in Mexico City collapsed, President Enrique Pena Nieto told Televisa news. He was returning to Mexico City from Oaxaca to take charge of the crisis, but couldn't land in the city due to damage, according to Televisa news. He was to survey the city from the air, hold a coordination meeting and address the nation in the evening.

"The priority is to help victims that have been affected, and rescue those that are trapped in buildings," he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 hit at 1:14 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT) and it was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City.

Puebla Gov. Tony Gali tweeted that 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.