Helicopter assessing damage in Mexico natural disaster has crashed, killing 13 people

Helicopter assessing damage in Mexico natural disaster has crashed, killing 13 people

Thirteen people died and 15 were injured Friday night after a military helicopter carrying government officials assessing quake damage crashed in southern Mexico, said the Oaxaca state prosecutor's office.

Mexico's interior department said the helicopter was carrying the interior minister, Alfonso Navarrete, and the Oaxaca state governor, Alejandro Murat.

In Oaxaca, where the epicentre was located, authorities reported some structural damage to buildings in two towns, Pinotepa Nacional and Santiago Jamiltepec.

The U.S. Geological Survey originally put the magnitude of Friday's quake at 7.5 but later lowered it to 7.2.

"The moment the helicopter touched down it lost control, it slid - like it skidded - and it hit some vehicles that were stationed in the area", he said. Aftershocks, including one of 5.8 magnitude that struck about an hour after the first, had caused people to flee their homes for fear they would collapse.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said the crash took place while the helicopter was landing.

The helicopter went down in the southwestern town of Pinotepa de Don Luis - 37 kilometers (22 miles) from the quake epicenter, according to the US Geological Survey.

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The Interior Department said in a statement that 50 homes suffered significant structural damage in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca state, along with other damage to the city hall and main church.

The state, along with Mexico City, is still reeling from earthquakes that caused widespread damage in September and killed at least 471 people.

The natural disaster came less than six months after two quakes killed hundreds of people in the country.

The 13 who were killed were all on the ground, spokeswoman Lizbeth Hernandez Bravo said. Similar scenes played out in Veracruz.

The latest tremor comes less than six months after last year's devastating earthquakes in central and southern Mexico.

Then on September 19 - the 32nd anniversary of a huge 1985 quake that killed 10,000 people - a 7.1-magnitude quake rocked the country, leaving 369 people dead.

Mexico sits at a spot where five tectonic plates come together, making it particularly vulnerable to earthquakes.

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