According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter of the earthquake took place in Raboso, Mexico—about 75 miles south of the capital city. When the damage was finally assessed, 3,000 buildings in Mexico City were demolished and another 100,000 suffered serious damage. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. When earthquake tremors hit solid rock, the rock simply shakes. Give a Gift. The greatest impact was in densely populated Mexico City, but the shaking was even more intense in Puebla, closer to the epicenter. If there is a silver lining to these destructive natural events, it’s that they present an opportunity for scientists to collect real world data in hopes of better understanding and coping with future disasters. A car is crushed by debris in Mexico City on September 19. When soils are saturated with water, intense shaking can cause them to lose their solid structures and begin acting like a liquid—to the point that the ground can swallow up cars like quick sand. Volunteers arrange food and other donated supplies at a distribution point in Mexico City on September 20. Sides of building crumble after Mexican quake, trapped inside the Enrique Rebsamen elementary school, John Vidale: Mexico's earthquake caused by crumpling from the downward bending of the sinking Cocos Plate deep within earth, He says cure for devastation: make buildings earthquake proof. Vote Now! I want to express my condolences to those who lost a family member or a loved one. This annual rite both honors the 10,000 people who lost their lives in that disaster and prepares the city’s current residents for the next natural disaster. Mexico City is especially prone to severe damage because it is built on an ancient lakebed that amplifies the effect of earthquakes. Each year, Mexico City commemorates the anniversary of its devastating 1985 temblor by holding a series of evacuation tests. The U.S. Geological Survey Mexico reported that Mexico held a long history of destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Tuesday's earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. Mexico City's downtown area is notoriously vulnerable to earthquakes because of the very soft and wet ground underneath. Continue Members of the Mexican Army nap September 20 after assisting in search-and-rescue missions in Mexico City. or 10,000 people lost their lives, 30,000 were injured and thousands more were left homeless. In videos posted to Youtube and Twitter, many structures seemed to disintegrate under the vibrations. People stand inside a Mexico City building that collapsed in the quake. A survivor is pulled out of rubble in Mexico City on September 20. "No one expected the intensities of motion that were recorded in Mexico City,” Berto said. The first of these occurred on 20 September with a magnitude of 7.5 and the sec… Terms of Use Privacy Statement The 1985 earthquake was the more typical great earthquake that breaks the boundary between the plates, and caused great devastation in Mexico City despite being more than 100 miles distant. Shortly after noon on Tuesday, an earthquake violently shook the area around Mexico City, collapsing numerous buildings into dust, killing more than 100. In Mexico … The sudden release of energy causes seismic waves to radiate out from the epicenter. 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It produced strong motions felt by more than 12 million people, and noticeably swayed buildings in Mexico’s capital city, some of which collapsed. … Mexico shares your grief.”. Until today, nobody really knows how many people perished as a result of the earthquake. First came the 8.1-magnitude earthquake that struck offshore of Chiapas, Mexico, killing dozens and turning many buildings in the nearby region into rubble. Further, the tremors caused gas mains to break, causing fires and explosions throughout the city. One might assume that the Sept. 8 … “If you start pushing every 5 seconds, it will just mess things up.” That is, the pushes won’t have a cumulative effect. Some of additional damages were indirectly caused by the earthquake. Hundreds more have shaken the thousands of miles that make up the country's coastline, many topping eight on the equivalent Richter scale. Most of the damage was focused on the historic downtown area of Cuauhtémoc. Tuesday's earthquake was the 34th earthquake to strike Mexico City with a magnitude greater than 7.1, though smaller ones happen all the time. This latest quake was centered on a region where the Cocos tectonic plate, which sits beneath the Pacific Ocean, is slowly being shoved beneath the continental North American plate. At least 149 people have been reported dead after a devastating earthquake shook Mexico City and the surrounding areas, destroying buildings and sending residents scrambling to … The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. It was 30 years ago today that at least 5,000 people — some estimates put the number at closer to 10,000, others at four times that — died in the powerful Mexico City earthquake of 1985. “This disaster presents us with a major opportunity to learn and prevent a similar disaster from happening in the United States,” said the National Science Foundation's then-assistant director for engineering during a U.S. congressional briefing in the wake of the 1985 disaster. On the anniversary of a deadly 8.0 quake that struck central Mexico in 1985, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the same region, killing at least 200 people, destroying dozens of buildings and leaving millions without power. 370 people were killed by the earthquake and related building collapses, including 228 in Mexico City, and more than 6,000 were injured. A man comforts a student outside a school in Mexico City on September 19. This was also the cause of the 8.1-earthquake that hit Mexico two weeks ago. A similarly deep but much larger magnitude 8.1-earthquake struck two weeks ago, also from the crumpling of the Cocos Plate. The cause of this earthquake was the plate tectonics by crumpling arising from the downward bending of the sinking Cocos Plate, instead of moving directly by slippage between plates (Vidale). The seismic waves that were taking down buildings were five times greater than waves outside the city, according to measurements taken during that event, reported the LA Times. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake killed more than 9,500 people 32 years ago. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday's earthquake in Mexico was the second in less than two weeks and brought back memories of the terrible tremor that hit 30 years to the day yesterday. Earthquake kills dozens in central Mexico, 5 things you should know about earthquakes, See 15 years of earthquakes in 45 seconds, Search for survivors after tsunami continues, Deadly tsunami hits Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Hundreds of hikers rescued after earthquake, Relatives of missing people wait for news in front of a collapsed building in Mexico City on Friday, September 22. While it’s long been known that sediments can magnify tremors, researchers didn’t learn exactly how dramatic the effects could be until 1985. Miles away in Mexico City the damage has been extensive we begin with ABC's bill Blakemore. Recovery efforts take place at the collapse of a residential building in Mexico City on September 19. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s temblor is just the latest chapter in Mexico’s long and tragic history of earthquakes. It struck Mexico 400 miles to the southeast and offshore, not far from Guatemala, and killed dozens of people. “A basin will have natural frequencies, which depend on its shape and size, as well as the material properties of the sediments inside,” explains Jascha Polet, a geophysicist at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, via e-mail. Tuesday's earthquake, however, was caused by crumpling arising from the downward bending of the sinking Cocos Plate, rather than directly by slippage between plates. Further, the tremors caused gas mains to break, causing fires and explosions throughout the city. Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. People remove debris off a building that collapsed in Mexico City. Families prepare to sleep under tarps outside their quake-damaged building in Mexico City on September 20. “When seismic waves make a basin shake at one of these natural frequencies, significant amplification may occur.”. "It's almost like a bathtub, the [seismic] waves will slosh back and forth," she says. But when they roll into the soft sediments of a basin, the vibrations can become trapped, reverberating back and forth through the material, explains Susan Hough, a seismologist with the USGS. At least 200 people died, according to the Associated Press and other news outlets. In the early 1300s, attracted by those fertile soils, the Aztecs selected an island in the lake on which to build their capital city, Tenochtitlan, which eventually became Mexico City. Follow him on Twitter at @seismoguy. The earthquake caused landslides, rockslides, and sandblows, opened cracks in the ground and damaged or destroyed buildings. If the government continues to deem it worthwhile, the United States will also have an early warning system in a few years. This was the second earthquake to hit Mexico in two weeks. “The priority now is continue rescuing those who are still trapped and provide medical attention to the injured,” Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a video statement, according to KTLA.com. By LARRY BUCHANAN, JASMINE C. LEE, SERGIO PEÇANHA and K.K. In the 1985 earthquake, many large buildings were destroyed, and Tuesday's quake was another blow mostly to the older, less solidly constructed structures. (In local time, the earthquake struck a few minutes before midnight on Sept. The September 19, 1985 earthquake caused con- siderable damage to modern construction in Mexico City, but only in those areas on the bed of an old lake because there the ground motion was considerably amplified (Beck and Hall, 1986). Mexican government officials are still tallying up the economic losses of the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage in the capital, … Updated 1429 GMT (2229 HKT) September 20, 2017. Coming off the heels of Mexico City's latest tragedy, however, the focus must be on the people of central Mexico. Rescue workers remove rubble from a Mexico City building on September 19. The sequence of events included a foreshock of magnitude 5.2 that occurred the prior May, the main shock on 19 September, and two large aftershocks. Though the fact that these quakes occurred on the same day 32 years apart is purely coincidence, their dramatic impact on the capital is not. Liquefaction worsened the impacts of the 1985 earthquake, undermining the foundation of many buildings. worsened the impacts of the 1985 earthquake, Caligula's Gardens, Long Hidden Beneath Italian Apartment Building, to Go on View, The 'Last' Female Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle Died in 2019. A police officer runs toward the site where a building collapsed in Mexico City on September 19. The quake damaged the Jojutla Municipal Palace. Patients from a Mexico City hospital receive treatment outside after the hospital was evacuated on September 19. Men carry beams of wood to offer help in Mexico City's Roma neighborhood on September 20. The US Geological Survey predicts up to … A wall is damaged at a home in Tlayacapan on Wednesday, September 20. While it is not yet known if this is a factor for the latest quake, “it would not be surprising,” says Polet. Powerful Earthquake Jolts Southern Mexico and Kills at Least 6 The 7.5-magnitude quake, centered on the Pacific Coast in the state of Oaxaca, damaged some structures and caused buildings to … Flash Report on Damage Caused in Mexico City, Mexico, by the 2017 Puebla-Morelos Earthquake Tsuneo OHSUMI Dr., Research Center for Reinforcement of Resilient Function, National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience (NIED), Tsukuba, … Ironically, the US does not yet have such a system, but is trying to build one. Mexico City, the country’s densely-populated capital, is even more susceptible to earthquakes than the rest of the country. Its soil amplifies shaking like Jell-O on a plate, and is prone to liquefaction, which is the ability to transform dirt into a dense liquid when sufficiently churned. Volunteers and rescue workers search for people trapped inside the Enrique Rebsamen school on September 20. Mexico City in chaos is what we saw when these first … Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake struck about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City, according to the US Geological Survey. As buildings began to sway, crowds poured into the streets. Emergency workers remove debris as they search for survivors in Mexico City on September 19. Though the Spanish later drained the surrounding waters to prevent frequent flooding, the effects of that decision can still be felt today. Maya Wei-Haas is the assistant editor for science and innovation at Smithsonian.com. Rescue workers in Mexico City search for people trapped inside the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school on September 19. Engineers who surveyed Mexico City reported little significant structural damage. People sleep on the street next to damaged homes in Jojutla on September 20. A woman receives medical assistance after she was injured in Mexico City on September 19. A volunteer in Mexico City asks for silence as a flattened building is searched for survivors on September 20. Overall, the slope stability issues caused by the 2017 Puebla-Mexico City earthquake were relatively minor compared with the reported structural damage . It gets worse. A woman's crushed body hangs from a collapsed building in Mexico City on September 19. As these plates scrape against one another, tension builds until they reach a breaking point—which is when an earthquake strikes. A consistent frequency, each push will send the child higher into the Earth the... 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