Mexico: The Aftermath

By Todd Norman
In just two weeks, Mexico has been hit by two major earthquakes. The first was a magnitude 8.1 off the coast of Chiapas. Most recently, a 7.1 magnitude, happened in Mexico City on September 19th.

The earthquake was a dark reminder of a previous quake that shook Mexico city on the same day in 1985. It killed more than 10,000 people and left many other injured and homeless.

This recent earthquake has been the largest and possibly deadliest earthquake since 1985. At around 1pm violent and prolonged shaking caused buildings to shake and crumble. The earthquake struck without warning despite a system set in place designed to send out an alert before hand.

Disaster Relief and Rescue

The current death toll has reached 245, with desperate rescue attempts throughout the city underway. Of the dozens of buildings that collapsed, one has really shown the resilience and determination of the people in Mexico City.

A four story elementary school collapsed Tuesday afternoon during the earthquake. Search teams made up of firemen, paramedics, and even local residents came together to comb through the rubble looking for survivors.

Here's a first hand account of the scene from NPR's Carrie Khan:

"It is a heartbreaking scene. Hundreds of volunteers and rescue personnel have flooded to this neighborhood around the school... all are emotionally drained, tired, but just holding on to the hope they can reach some of the children alive... under all that rubble.

"One wing of the school, three stories just pancakes in the powerful quake. One right on top of the other, making the rescue and chances of survival very difficult. 

 "But the volunteers keep coming... with hard hats and fluorescent vests, They're removing the rubble with picks, shovels, their hands... whatever they can. And dozens more are taking donations, feeding the rescuers, just wanting to be there and do something for those children either dead or trapped in the building.

Reports came through Thursday afternoon that several days after the event all children were at last accounted for with at least 21 children having died from the collapse.

The united efforts of emergency services and civilians lending a hand are paying off, just as we have seen the efforts help many in Texas and Florida during the natural disasters we have seen there.

Why were only certain buildings affected?

From reports we receive from Mexico, it seems that there were fewer buildings affected and a very different type of building that was affected than the previous earthquake. Why is this?
While structural integrity is of course crucial any buildings ability to outlast an earthquake. The type of earthquake and location can have an important impact as well. Just because a building survives one earthquake does not mean it will last another.
In 1985 buildings that were 5-20 stories tall suffered more damage than shorter buildings. In this earthquake, the shorter buildings saw more damage, with many of them crumbling.
The reason for this is similar to why a wine glass will shatter with certain frequencies and survive others. An earthquake creates vibrations and frequencies that can play off of a building causing more damage. 
If the epicenter is close then small buildings will see more damage than taller buildings, whereas typically if the epicenter is farther away, the taller buildings may face more damage.

Always be prepared

While the two major earthquakes have aleviated much of the stress on that fault line, we should still keep an eye out, and by that I mean, be prepared! Earthquakes are nigh impossible to accurately predict when, where, and how one will strike.
If you live in an area with an active fault line, it's best to be prepared. Even if you have survived a previous earthquake with little to no damage. That can lead to a false sense of security.
Take time to prepare your homes for an earthquake, and most importantly prepare yourself, and your families! 
Here are some quick tips:
  • Have an emergency plan for your family, where to meet if you are separated, how to evacuate your house, and an outside contact incase phone lines in the city are busy.
  • Have extra food and water supplies at your house
  • Have an emergency grab and go bug-out bag for your family with appropriate supplies
  • Have an emergency kit with food and water at your work locations, and small kits for your children to have at their school.
This is a great starter list to build off of, what are some other preparation ideas you have?
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