Sept. 7 2017, Pijijiapan, Mexico was hit with a record breaking 8.2 magnitude earthquake and according to resident Nataniel Hernandez “it has not stopped shaking.” On Tuesday, Sept. 19 a 7.1 magnitude quake rocked Mexico City and just last Saturday, Sept. 23, a 6.1 magnitude aftershock hit Oaxaca.
These earthquakes came on the 32nd anniversary of the devastating 8.1 magnitude quake in Mexico City on Sept. 18 1985 that toppled buildings and left 10,000 civilians dead. As part of commemorating the anniversary, Mexico held a nationwide earthquake drill, only two hours before the 7.1 quake hit.
After 1985, as Mexico began to rebuild, the country instituted new building codes in hopes of preventing the magnitude of damage suffered by the 1985 quakes. Despite these efforts, the most recent quake in Mexico City has damaged at least 3,000 buildings, with the death toll currently at 320 as of Sunday Sept. 24, but this number is expected to rise.
Mexico sits on top of three converging tectonic plates, the North America, Cocos, and Pacific Plates. Mexico is also regarded by the BBC as “one of the most seismically active places on Earth.” Additionally, Mexico City is built upon an ancient lakebed which leaves the ground unstable and more susceptible to damage.
Sitting on the Ring of Fire (an area where seismic activity is most likely to occur) earthquakes of this magnitude in this area are not unheard of, but these have been the most damaging in Mexico’s history. Seismologists study plate movement and can roughly predict what magnitude earthquakes are due to happen, but they can not pinpoint in advance exactly when they will hit, and this surprise factor only leads to more devastation.
These quakes have set off concerns for Californian’s who sit on the infamous San Andreas fault. Despite a 3.6 magnitude quake rumbling Los Angeles Monday, Sept. 18, Professor Andrew Newman, with the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech urges Californians not to stress.
“Globally, we don’t see any direct connections between earthquakes,” Newman said. “Whenever we have a large earthquake, aftershocks happen only locally.”
With hundreds of Mexicans left injured and displaced, anyone can help relief aid by donating to topos.mx projectpaz.org, donaunicef.org.mx or globalgiving.org. While some aftershocks are expected after an earthquake of such size, scientists are hopeful this will be the last of the rumbles, allowing for rescue workers to continue digging people out of the rubble.