Major earthquake strikes off Mexico

At least five people have been killed in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck off the country's south-west coast.

A tsunami has also hit the country after the quake, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Its largest wave was 0.7 metres, but waves of up to 3 metres are expected to hit in the coming hours.

The earthquake was widely felt, sending residents in Mexico's capital fleeing to the streets after being rocked at 11:49pm on Thursday (local time) - more than 630km away from the epicentre.

Mexico's President has since issued a statement on the quake, calling it "the biggest the country has seen in a century."

Magnitude 8.0 earthquake strikes off Mexico's coast (USGS)
Photo credit: US Geological Survey

Tsunami warnings have been issued across central America, with waves expected to range from 0.3 metres to up to 3 metres tall.

There is no tsunami risk to New Zealand, Civil Defence says.

This follows an earlier report stating that if the quake had generated a tsunami, it wouldn't likely arrive in New Zealand for at least 12 hours. 

The quake struck off the coast near Mexico's border with Guatemala, at a depth of 33km.

At least three people have died in the earthquake, according to the interior minister.

Hundreds of kilometres away, a witness in Mexico City told Reuters people ran out into the streets in just their pyjamas.

"I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first I laughed, but when the lights went out I didn't know what to do," he said.

Video from the city shows the night sky was lit up green during the earthquake, a phenomenon which generally only appears during a magnitude 5.0 or higher quake.

The event, described as "ominous" by one onlooker, occurs when stress-induced electrical currents are able to flow rapidly to the surface through continental rifts, lighting up the skies and appearing similar to an aurora.

Video also shows the confusion residents faced after fleeing their apartments, with some wrapped in blankets and others carrying babies and dogs.

At least nine large aftershocks have followed the original quake, each getting closer to the coast.