On Friday morning, as families in Mexico were preparing for the holy day of Good Friday, an earthquake that measured between 7.2 and 7.5 on the Richter scale, shook Mexico’s southern coast. The epicenter was estimated to be in the municipality of Técpan de Galeana in the state of Guerrero, 170 miles southwest of Mexico City – about 49 kilometers (30 miles) deep. The coastal town received the most damage from one of the most forceful earthquakes to hit Mexico in recent years. However, despite fears to the contrary, Mexico City held steady and only minor damage was incurred.
Mexico City’s mayor, Miguel Angel Mancerra, stated that the precautions that had been put in place kept the capital safe. He also mentioned that, due to the Easter holiday, many families had already begun their weekend travel plans and so fewer residents were in the city at the time.
News reports, however, indicated that one of the places where hundreds of thousands of Mexicans had gone to vacation for the Easter holiday was an area equally hit hard by the quake. The Pacific resort of Acapulco is just southeast of the center of the powerful earthquake. Fortunately, in both Acapulco and the capital, there were no immediate reports of damage or personal injury.
When the quake struck, buildings swayed. People in Mexico City fled high rise buildings in droves, running into the street. The tremors lasted for a minimum of 30 seconds. (See video below.) Throughout the day, there was concern and vulnerable areas were surveyed aerially. At the end of the day, however, though over 100 homes and other structures were damaged in the epicenter, there were no reports of death in the country.
The subway system in Mexico City was working, albeit on a slower schedule, and Mexico City’s water system and pumping stations network were also unaffected. Cell phone, internet and power services experienced some interruptions, but the state is working to get the systems up and running again.
One of the natural forces that strongly affected the earthquake was that it was centered on land. As such, no tsunami was generated, even though there was an increase in waves in coastal areas. Acapulco experienced a minor swell in tide.
In the Mexico City suburb of Iztapalapa, an annual Good Friday procession and passion of Christ play, is viewed by hundreds of thousands each year. Performers dress in robes and carry crosses. The play was interrupted momentarily by the earthquake, due to the ground shaking, but the cast held study and continued as scheduled.
Other areas of the capital city saw groceries and other items being shaken off shelves and bookcases, in stores and office buildings. Visitors to the areas affected saw cracks forming in the walls, frightening them, even though local residents seemed less worried. Some in area neighborhoods remained indoors until the shaking had reduced before they ventured outside to assess the situation.
Estimates to the earthquake’s magnitude varied according to the service. The lowest approximation was 7.0 and the highest 7.5, as estimated by Mexico’s national earthquake center and by the U.S. Geological Survey. This is in comparison to a severe earthquake 30 years ago, which measured 8.1 and killed almost 10,000 people. At that time, buildings were toppled in Mexico City, due to being built on an ancient lake bed. Since that time, Mexico has set up earthquake-warning systems.
In yesterday’s earthquake, Mexico was shaken, but the capital city received very little comparative damage to the 1985 quake. Due to tectonic plates, seismic activity resulting in ground tremors commonly occurs in Mexico, and neighboring California and Guatemala. This one held steady, however, and the damage was limited to structures. No one has so far been reported injured or killed by the recent quake.
By Fern Remedi-Brown