Mexico: strong earthquake on the anniversary of those of 1985 and 2017

A 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico last night, killing one person. The date is not insignificant since it is the same as that of two other earthquakes which traumatized the country.

In Mexico, September 19 is definitely cursed. A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 shook the west of the country and the capital Mexico City on Monday, the anniversary of the deadly earthquakes of 1985 and 2017. One person died in the west of the country, said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

A casualty was reported in the state of Michoacan, where the epicenter was located near the Pacific. No major damage was recorded in Mexico City (nine million intramural inhabitants, 25 million with its metropolis).

A real earthquake right after an exercise

In the capital, the tremor was felt strongly for several seconds, less than an hour after an annual earthquake drill.

In Mexico City, firefighters were training to deal with the aftermath of a potential earthquake just hours before a real earthquake hit.
In Mexico City, firefighters were training to deal with the aftermath of a potential earthquake just hours before a real earthquake hit. © ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP

At 1:05 p.m. local time (7:05 p.m. French time), the inhabitants of Mexico City returned to the streets in panic when the seismic alert sounded, for good this time, after the earthquake simulation organized each September 19 by the authorities.

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack! I’m already nervous when September arrives,” said Gabriela Ramirez, a 58-year-old housewife.

“Once again on the 19th, it is not possible”

“This area is very vulnerable because many buildings were damaged by the 2017 earthquake. They have not been repaired,” adds Gabriela Ramirez, met in the central districts of Roma-Condesa, built on very unstable ground.

“How scary. I thought: again on the 19th, it’s not possible,” testified Laura Plaza, a retired teacher.

“There are no consequences in Mexico so far” but “we continue to collect information,” said the mayor of the capital Claudia Sheinbaum. A metro line had to be evacuated due to power cuts, she added.

At the time of the earthquake, Claudia Sheinbaum was still at the police operations center from where she had overseen the annual drill 46 minutes earlier.

“There is nothing that tells us scientifically that September 19 is a special day for an earthquake to occur,” said the mayor of Mexico City, a physicist by training.

The epicenter was located towards the Pacific, in the state of Michoacan, several hundred kilometers west of the capital, at a depth of 15 km underground. The National Seismological Service first spoke of an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8, then 7.4. Only minor damage was recorded in Michoacan.

“We are carrying out an assessment”, indicated the local civil protection

A death in the west of the country

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced there was one death in neighboring Colima state following the fall of a fence at a mall, citing a Navy official.

Every September 19, during the annual anti-seismic exercise, residents must evacuate their homes or workplaces at the first alarm, to reach “meeting points” indicated in each district.

In September 2021, a 7.1 earthquake southeast of Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero, killed one person and damaged businesses and homes.

On September 19, 2017, a magnitude 7.1 quake killed 369 people. The earth had also shaken at midday, after the annual simulacrum. Entire buildings had collapsed in the center of the capital.

On September 19, 2017, Mexico suffered a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed 169 people in Mexico City.
On September 19, 2017, Mexico suffered a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed 169 people in Mexico City. © RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

On September 19, 1985, an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 ravaged the center of Mexico City, killing more than 10,000 people, most of them in the capital.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area where the meeting of tectonic plates causes high seismic activity, Mexico lives under the threat of large-scale earthquakes. The capital Mexico is particularly vulnerable in its part built on the old pre-Hispanic lake, covered over the centuries.

Expected consequences in New Caledonia

Abnormal waves of 20 to 30 centimeters “corresponding to a low intensity tsunami” were expected in New Caledonia around 6 p.m. (9 a.m. Paris time) following this powerful earthquake.

But “there is no proven risk of a destructive tsunami,” the local New Caledonian government said in a statement, however inviting the population to move away from the coast from 6 p.m.

Given the intensity, location and depth of the earthquake, the expected waves are “around 20 to 30 cm, corresponding to a low-intensity tsunami”, according to Civil Security, which did not trigger the tsunami warning. “Insofar as there is no risk of significant submersion of the coast, the population does not have to go to the high points or to the refuge areas”, specified the government.

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