Véronique remembers landing in Mexico City on September 20, 1985, the day after a gigantic earthquake devastated the stunning capital. “The floors of the buildings, which did not respect any rules of anti-seismic construction, slipped like a deck of cards with each subsequent tremor. Our plane from Paris, full of journalists and I, had a stopover in Washington to pick up more journalists, and we were all stuck in an airport hotel, sharing a shower, waiting to be let into the city,” he says. anthropologist. 37 years later, the ground shook violently in Mexico again.
The 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck western Mexico at 1:05 p.m. (8:05 p.m. French time) on Monday off the Pacific coast, near Michoacán’s border with Colima state, home to the large port of Manzanillo, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. It was relatively shallow, only 15 km deep, which would amplify its influence.
But unlike its infamous predecessor, which officially claimed more than 10,000 lives, and the 2017 one, which claimed more than 350, the damage so far has been limited: two people died in Manzanillo, authorities said. department store, while another was found dead in a shopping mall. Videos circulating on social media showed the mall’s roof collapsing onto the top floor, the gymnasium, as people screamed for help.
Authorities also reported damage to several hospitals in Michoacán, near the epicenter, which is located in the sparsely populated region of Mexico. One person was injured by falling glass at one of those hospitals, the government said. Power was cut in parts of Mexico City’s fashionable Roma district, about 400 km from the epicenter, and a powerless metro line was evacuated. The national power company said the outages affected 1.2 million customers.
“It seems like a curse”
In Coalcoman, Michoacán, near the epicenter, images show shingles ripped from houses and walls cracked by the force of the earthquake. In the shop, goods were scattered on the floor.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said she had no immediate reports of major damage in the capital, where tremors were felt strongly for seconds, less than an hour after the annual earthquake drill.
Every September 19, the Mexican authorities organize a simulation of a huge earthquake. Residents must evacuate their homes or workplaces at the first alarm to reach “rendezvous points” listed in each district. The actual warning 46 minutes later scared some, others didn’t believe it. 99% of the speakers were working properly, City Hall said. Telephone networks were almost saturated due to the many calls and text messages sent to reassure loved ones or to get news.
“It looks like a curse,” Isa Montes, a 34-year-old graphic designer from the central Roma neighborhood, told Reuters of the timing of the quake as helicopters hovered over the city to monitor it. “It’s a lot of coincidences, a lot of coincidences! I think it could be a sign from God,” said Federico Garcia (57) in an interview with AFP.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), one of the country’s most prestigious universities, said there is no scientific explanation for the occurrence of three major earthquakes on the same day, attributing the phenomenon to pure coincidence. “There is nothing that scientifically tells us that September 19 is a special day for an earthquake,” said the Mexico City mayor, a physicist by training.
The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also issued a warning for coastal areas, indicating that waves reaching 1 to 3 m above the high tide level were possible.