Disasters & Accidents

Mexico holds historic national drill on anniversary of its worst earthquakes

Inés Amarelo

Mexico City, Sep 19 (EFE).- Mexicans held a historic national earthquake drill Tuesday, on the anniversary of the 1985 and 2017 quakes, the most destructive in recent history.

“Let citizens know that this is a city where at any moment it can tremble and let them know that we have prepared units and that we are properly trained and operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week for a major emergency or disaster,” said Humberto González, tactical operational director of the Secretariat of Integral Risk Management and Civil Protection of the Government of Mexico City, in an interview with EFE.

González managed the actions in the capital’s emblematic Zócalo, home of the National Palace.

In the Zócalo square, next to the Metropolitan Cathedral, two simultaneous scenarios were set up: the collapse of a house and a gas leak from a vehicle.

All the tools used are used when buildings collapse, not only in the event of an earthquake. They are ready to be used, if necessary, for any reason.

The instructor indicated that people must go out and perform the protocols during a drill because, in 2017, there was a critical earthquake. Many people were not used to responding to the authorities’ call because they had never felt a tremor of that magnitude, 7.1.

“Today, we have many generations that are enrolling in volunteer corps to support citizens and also in other ways with civil associations through which they can help in case of disaster,” said González.

A commemoration of disasters

At least 119,000 companies and more than 9 million people participated in the 2023 national seismic drill, which is being held to commemorate the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes, the two most destructive in the country’s recent history and which occurred on the same date.

On this occasion, they simulated a hypothetical earthquake of magnitude 8 with an epicenter in Acapulco, a coastal city in the country’s south.

The most destructive earthquake occurred on September 19, 1985, when a magnitude 8.1 quake struck Mexico at 7:17 local time (12:17 GMT), with its epicenter in the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of the Balsas River, on the coast of the state of Michoacán.

Although the official death toll was 3,192, many deaths were left unaccounted for, so specialists estimate that there were more than 20,000 in reality.

Thirty-two years later, just on the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake, Mexico suffered the second most destructive earthquake in its history at 13.14 local time (18.14 GMT), shortly after the national drill carried out every year on this date.

On last year’s drill day, Mexico recorded a 7.7 magnitude tremor, one of the most intense ever recorded, right on the anniversary of the 1985 and 2017 quakes. However, this time, there was only one death.

An experiment with real fear

There are many messages of fear on social networks and tension in the streets, for fear of even hearing the seismic alert and remembering the complex moments that many Mexicans lived in 2017 and 1985.

This drill results from five years of coordinated work between various federal and local agencies, aiming to be as prepared as possible and show citizens their capabilities.

Mauricio, a 19-year-old from Monterrey who is spending a few days in the capital, told EFE, “I think it’s great that they are taking all this into account so that people can see what they have at hand, materials, etc., and that this day is taken as a day of remembrance of what happened during those years, of the people who lost their lives.”

For their part, a retired couple from the University of Guanajuato, Graciela and Alfonso, considered that it is necessary for people living in the Mexican capital and other areas of the country where earthquakes usually occur to follow the instructions in the drills to know the protocols.

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