'Like a ship listing on the ocean': Vancouverite in Mexico City escapes building during earthquake

Vancouverite Jaime Stein was in Mexico City yesterday on a business trip and in a meeting on the top floor of a building when the earthquake hit

Jaime Stein was on a business trip to Mexico when the earthquake hit

Rescuers work at the site of a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico Tuesday afternoon, the second in as many weeks, killing at least 225 people.

Vancouverite Jaime Stein was in Mexico City on Tuesday for a business trip and in a meeting on the top floor of a building when the earthquake hit. He described the scene and aftermath to CBC's  The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"I was sitting next to the window and felt the room shake for a second and thought, 'maybe it's just someone walking down the hallway and the building might be a bit old,'" Stein said. "Then the entire building started swaying back and forth."

More than 3,300 Canadians in Mexico are registered with Global Affairs although officials say the number could be higher. There have been no reports of Canadian casualties, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Vancouverite Jaime Stein was in Mexico City yesterday on a business trip and in a meeting on the top floor of a building with the earthquake hit 7:12

'Like a ship listing on the ocean'

Stein and his colleagues ran out of the room as the building shifted.

"We moved into the centre of the building, where the elevators were and hung on to walls, on to each other," he said. "The power went out and the building just kept swaying back and forth like a ship listing on the ocean."

Stein said the minute or so of shaking felt like hours. He and his colleagues escaped the building from an outdoor emergency staircase, climbing down 14 flights of stairs to get out.

"From outside, we had this incredible view of downtown Mexico City, and we could seem plumes of smoke coming out of different areas where clearly buildings had fallen down," he said. "We just ran down those stairs."

Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers remove rubble and debris from a flattened building in search of survivors after a powerful quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Earthquake drills

The earthquake comes exactly 32 years to the day after an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that caused the death of 5,000 people. Stein said that earlier in the morning, he had seen earthquakes drills occurring throughout the city in remembrance of the 1985 disaster.

Everyone knew it wasn't a drill a few hours later when the earthquake hit for real, he said.

"People had megaphones and safety vests. It was so organized and that really sticks out to me," Stein said. "The streets were filled with hundreds of thousands of people, and they were all calmed. People were handing out water and helping."

He said seeing the aftermath of the earthquake in Mexico drove home the need to be prepared for a similar emergency in Vancouver.

"I wonder and worry if we are 100 per cent prepared," he said. "Everything functions for the most part so normally that you can't imagine something like that happening in Vancouver."

Stein is expecting to fly back to Canada on Friday.

With files from The Early Edition