About 1000 buildings, mostly of masonry and rein- Mexico sits atop a complicated juncture of tectonic plates, which have been engaged in a slow-motion collision for over a million years. 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). A similarly deep but much larger magnitude 8.1-earthquake struck two weeks ago, also from the crumpling of the Cocos Plate. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. Mexico City is especially prone to severe damage because it is built on an ancient lakebed that amplifies the effect of earthquakes. This was also the cause of the 8.1-earthquake that hit Mexico two weeks ago. Rescue workers and volunteers search a collapsed building in Mexico City on September 19. 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 … People stand inside a Mexico City building that collapsed in the quake. A man comforts a student outside a school in Mexico City on September 19. People remove debris off a building that collapsed in Mexico City. As well, the tremors led to gas mains to break causing fires and explosions throughout Mexico City. The U.S. Geological Survey Mexico reported that Mexico held a long history of destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Mexico shares your grief.”. 370 people were killed by the earthquake and related building collapses, including 228 in Mexico City, and more than 6,000 were injured. The event caused serious damage to the Greater Mexico Cityarea and the deaths of at least 5,000 people. Vote Now! When the damage was finally assessed, 3,000 buildings in Mexico City were demolished and another 100,000 suffered serious damage. Rescue workers in Mexico City search for people trapped inside the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school on September 19. These latest quakes were caused by the movement of tectonic plates, the pieces of Earth’s crust that move and jostle against each other. Two weeks ago, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake—the strongest in a century—jolted southern Mexico, killing nearly 100 people. A magnitude 8.1 quake. The shaking energy was generated at the earthquake's source, 30 miles deep, for just 20 seconds, but the waves reverberated for much longer, up to a minute or two, in the mountain and valleys. It struck Mexico 400 miles to the southeast and offshore, not far from Guatemala, and killed dozens of people. A wall is damaged at a home in Tlayacapan on Wednesday, September 20. Her work has appeared on National Geographic and AGU's Eos and Plainspoken Scientist. 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. Almost nine million people live in Mexico City. It produced strong motions felt by more than 12 million people, and noticeably swayed buildings in Mexico’s capital city, some of which collapsed. Some of additional damages were indirectly caused by the earthquake. 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. 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. “When seismic waves make a basin shake at one of these natural frequencies, significant amplification may occur.”. Photos show the devastating impact of the deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rattled Mexico City, killing more than 220 people The quake killed at least 220 people Time.com … Mexico City in chaos is what we saw when these first … “No one had designed for it, and that is why so many buildings failed.”. This was the second earthquake to hit Mexico in two weeks. An injured person is carried away after being rescued in Mexico City on Tuesday, September 19. 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. Maya Wei-Haas is the assistant editor for science and innovation at Smithsonian.com. Volunteers arrange food and other donated supplies at a distribution point in Mexico City on September 20. Additional damage occurred in Mexico City when adjacent 20 story buildings swayed enough to bump into one another. 7.) "This [earthquake] taught us that soft soils can magnify motion to a degree never thought possible," University of California at Berkeley engineer Vitelmo Berto told the LA Times in 1986, a year after the disaster. People react in Mexico City just after the quake hit. 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. Each year, Mexico City commemorates the anniversary of its devastating 1985 temblor by holding a series of evacuation tests. 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. This, as yesterday’s quake shows, causes them to sway—and eventually topple. Mexico City sits atop an ancient shallow lake, with soils made of sediments that washed in from the surrounding mountains thousands of years ago. Depending on the frequency of the seismic waves, the movement of the ground can feed energy into buildings of a certain height. Mexico City, the country’s densely-populated capital, is even more susceptible to earthquakes than the rest of the country. While it’s long been known that sediments can magnify tremors, researchers didn’t learn exactly how dramatic the effects could be until 1985. Rescuers and firefighters lower a corpse from a house in Mexico City on September 20. It gets worse. As buildings began to sway, crowds poured into the streets. A man is rescued under rubble in Mexico City's Condesa area on September 19. A survivor is pulled out of rubble in Mexico City on September 20. Initial reports are that the system worked Tuesday. One might assume that the Sept. 8 … A volunteer in Mexico City asks for silence as a flattened building is searched for survivors on September 20. “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. Meantime Mexico's. Miles away in Mexico City the damage has been extensive we begin with ABC's bill Blakemore. or 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. Smithsonian Institution, (U.S. Geological Survey Department of the Interior/USGS/I.D. 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. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake killed more than 9,500 people 32 years ago. "It's almost like a bathtub, the [seismic] waves will slosh back and forth," she says. But yesterday, soon after business had resumed, central Mexico was rocked by a real—and deadly—7.1-magnitude earthquake. A search goes on at the scene of a collapsed building in Mexico City's Del Valle neighborhood on September 19. Members of the Mexican Army nap September 20 after assisting in search-and-rescue missions in Mexico City. Two weeks ago, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake—the strongest in a century —jolted southern Mexico, killing nearly 100 people. "No one expected the intensities of motion that were recorded in Mexico City,” Berto said. Children's toys are seen in a damaged building in Mexico City on September 20. The death toll has been disputed, but about 5,000 bodies were … But if you push at a consistent frequency, each push will send the child higher into the sky. Other seismologists have likened these lakebed dynamics to a bowl of Jello. 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). There have been 34 earthquakes bigger than magnitude-7 within 300 miles of Tuesday's quake since 1900. Updated 1429 GMT (2229 HKT) September 20, 2017. 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. Further, the tremors caused gas mains to break, causing fires and explosions throughout the city. Tuesday’s earthquake, however, was caused by … 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. People look for survivors in Mexico City on September 20. Emergency workers remove debris as they search for survivors in Mexico City on September 19. Tuesday's earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. What many don’t realize is that there’s a simple reason behind this region’s propensity for cataclysms: The geology of Mexico—and particularly that of Mexico City—makes it a perfect storm for seismic catastrophe. “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. This movement is causing extreme tensions as the slab is rammed into the Earth. While it is not yet known if this is a factor for the latest quake, “it would not be surprising,” says Polet. In the history of Mexican earthquakes, Tuesday's was coincidentally the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Michoacan earthquake, which resulted in thousands of deaths. California Do Not Sell My Info Overall, the slope stability issues caused by the 2017 Puebla-Mexico City earthquake were relatively minor compared with the reported structural damage . “Think of pushing a kid on a swing,” Hough adds. 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Rescue workers search for survivors Thursday, September 21, at a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City. Until today, nobody really knows how many people perished as a result of the earthquake. (CNN)Another deadly earthquake struck deep under Mexico. President Enrique Pena Nieto said Wednesday [Sept. 27] that preliminary accounting of the damage caused by the two big earthquakes that hit Mexico this … However, this was not the cause of the most severe structural damage. Mexican government officials are still tallying up the economic losses of the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage in the capital, … Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake struck about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City, according to the US Geological Survey. The cure for earthquake devastation is well known -- fix the old buildings and improve construction methods -- and too complex and expensive to accomplish in less than decades. I want to express my condolences to those who lost a family member or a loved one. As these plates scrape against one another, tension builds until they reach a breaking point—which is when an earthquake strikes. 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 woman in Mexico City cries as she tries to reach people on her cell phone after the quake. A deadly M 7.1 earthquake struck nearby Mexico City yesterday, leaving over 200 dead and countless missing. In Mexico … Cookie Policy At least 200 people died, according to the Associated Press and other news outlets. Engineers who surveyed Mexico City reported little significant structural damage. Men carry beams of wood to offer help in Mexico City's Roma neighborhood on September 20. A car is crushed by debris in Mexico City on September 19. Less than 15 minutes after the quake, thousands of people in the capital lay dead and the Mexican economy was shattered for years to come. Coming off the heels of Mexico City's latest tragedy, however, the focus must be on the people of central Mexico. Further, the tremors caused gas mains to break, causing fires and explosions throughout the city. 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. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, who tracks earthquake activity worldwide, over the last century there have been roughly 19 other earthquakes over 6.5 magnitude within just 155 miles of the epicenter of the latest quake. Liquefaction worsened the impacts of the 1985 earthquake, undermining the foundation of many buildings. “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. Mexico City's downtown area is notoriously vulnerable to earthquakes because of the very soft and wet ground underneath. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. Mexico City earthquake of 1985, also called Michoacán earthquake of 1985, severe earthquake that occurred on September 19, 1985, off the coast of the Mexican state of Michoacán, causing widespread death and injuries and catastrophic damage in Mexico’s … Advertising Notice Unfortunately, Tuesday’s temblor is just the latest chapter in Mexico’s long and tragic history of earthquakes. Mexico has been learning how to deal with this problem the hard way. Though the Spanish later drained the surrounding waters to prevent frequent flooding, the effects of that decision can still be felt today. A magnitude 7.1 quake. Volunteers and rescue workers search for people trapped inside the Enrique Rebsamen school on September 20. In the 1985 earthquake, many large buildings were destroyed, and Tuesday's quake was another blow mostly to the older, less solidly constructed structures. 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. The latest earthquake caused more damage because it … That earthquake was an 8.0 magnitude and it caused extreme damage to Mexico City. A religious statue is salvaged from a former convent that was heavily damaged in Tlayacapan, Mexico. 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. REBECCA LAI SEPT. 23, 2017 A 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday killed more than … 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 … People sleep on the street next to damaged homes in Jojutla on September 20. The quake damaged the Jojutla Municipal Palace. Mexico City’s lakebed geology also make it prone to an even more dramatic disaster: liquefaction. This holds true even if the epicenter of the quake is positioned far from the city’s boundaries, which was the case for both this latest earthquake (which originated nearly 100 miles southeast of Mexico City in the state of Puebla), and the 1985 earthquake (whose epicenter was some 200 miles from the capital). Its entire Pacific coast is a large and fast moving (that is, moving as fast as fingernails grow-- speedy in plate tectonics terms) plate boundary, often suffering large and great earthquakes. It is not immediately clear whether Tuesday's earthquake was triggered by the earlier one or if it is unrelated -- usually aftershocks are not so distant in time. By LARRY BUCHANAN, JASMINE C. LEE, SERGIO PEÇANHA and K.K. (In local time, the earthquake struck a few minutes before midnight on Sept. “If you start pushing every 5 seconds, it will just mess things up.” That is, the pushes won’t have a cumulative effect. Along the coast of Mexico, the Cocos Plate slides underneath the North American Plate, moving about three inches per year. Give a Gift. The reason: Ancient sediments that underlie the city trap and magnify the vibrations that ripple through the region. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. Rescue workers remove rubble from a Mexico City building on September 19. Soldiers remove debris from a collapsed building in Mexico City on September 20. The first of these occurred on 20 September with a magnitude of 7.5 and the sec… Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. A police officer runs toward the site where a building collapsed in Mexico City on September 19. Privacy Statement When the damage was finally assessed, 3,000 buildings in Mexico City … Volunteers organize donations in Mexico City on September 20. 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. Along the coast of Mexico, the Cocos Plate slides underneath the North American Plate, moving about three inches per year. The sudden release of energy causes seismic waves to radiate out from the epicenter. “Unfortunately many people have lost their lives, including girls and boys in schools, buildings and houses. A woman receives medical assistance after she was injured in Mexico City on September 19. 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. The earthquake happened on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that killed an estimated 9,500 people in and around Mexico City. Shortly after noon on Tuesday, an earthquake violently shook the area around Mexico City, collapsing numerous buildings into dust, killing more than 100. Ironically, the US does not yet have such a system, but is trying to build one. Continue Plate tectonics was the engine behind the shaking, as is true for all major earthquakes. Follow him on Twitter at @seismoguy. Celebi). The US Geological Survey predicts up to … Rescuers in Mexico City work to save a child. A man walks his bike past a partially collapsed building in Jojutla on September 20. When earthquake tremors hit solid rock, the rock simply shakes. Families prepare to sleep under tarps outside their quake-damaged building in Mexico City on September 20. The greatest impact was in densely populated Mexico City, but the shaking was even more intense in Puebla, closer to the epicenter. The earthquake caused landslides, rockslides, and sandblows, opened cracks in the ground and damaged or destroyed buildings. The temblor nearly flattened the distant Mexico City, yet left many cities close to the epicenter nearly unscathed. 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. 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. Patients from a Mexico City hospital receive treatment outside after the hospital was evacuated on September 19. If the government continues to deem it worthwhile, the United States will also have an early warning system in a few years. In videos posted to Youtube and Twitter, many structures seemed to disintegrate under the vibrations. 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, … Recovery efforts take place at the collapse of a residential building in Mexico City on September 19. Although there was severe damage in the coastal regions, the real disaster happened 220 miles away in Mexico City. 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. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake struck in the early morning of 19 September at 07:17:50 (CST) with a moment magnitude of 8.0 and a maximal Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). A woman in Mexico City reacts after the quake. Most of the damage was focused on the historic downtown area of Cuauhtémoc. Hundreds more have shaken the thousands of miles that make up the country's coastline, many topping eight on the equivalent Richter scale. A woman's crushed body hangs from a collapsed building in Mexico City on September 19. 10,000 people lost their lives, 30,000 were injured and thousands more were left homeless. John Vidale, a seismologist, is a professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Southern California and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

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