Things That Matter

I Was In Mexico City During Last Night’s 7.1 Earthquake And It Was One Of The Most Terrifying Experiences

Once again Mexico City was hit by a major earthquake that left parts of the country in rubble and residents scared to go back into their homes. Although the country is no stranger to earthquakes – a massive one struck the city in 2017 – it’s a reminder of just how unexpected life can be.

As someone who is often excited by earthquakes (they get that adrenaline flowing) and as someone who lives in Mexico City, I can say that this most recent quake was absolutely terrifying – both for its intensity and duration. It seemed to go on forever. Now, as the city and country start the clean-up process, many are already reflecting on what they’ll do differently next time.

A 7.1 earthquake struck near Acapulco and violently shook up communities throughout the country.

On Tuesday night a powerful 7.1 earthquake struck near the city of Acapulco (about 180 miles south of the capital Mexico City) leaving at least one person dead but thankfully no major damage. Although the quake was located far from Mexico City, severe shaking was felt across the capital. In fact, the quake was felt in at least 13 states including Mexico City, México state, Oaxaca, Michoacán, Jalisco, Morelos, Veracruz, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Hidalgo.

In the midst of the violent shaking, millions of people lost power as explosions and flashes of light filled the sky. All the while the city was also having a major thunderstorm only adding to the intense drama.

Despite the intensity of the quake, President López Obrador said in a video message posted to social media late Tuesday that there were no reports of major damage.

“Fortunately there is no major damage in [Guerrero],” he said, adding that there were only reports of collapsed walls. It’s the same in Morelos. There is no damage in Oaxaca, there is no damage in Puebla, there is no serious damage in Mexico City.”

Perhaps most shocking is that this is yet another large earthquake to hit during the month of September. In 2017, the same region was struck by two powerful quakes (an 8.2 in Chiapas and a 7.1 in Puebla), both of which came on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake which leveled large parts of the capital and left more than 5,000 dead.

The national earthquake warning system worked extremely well and provided residents with ample warning time.

Mexico has a well-equipped earthquake detection system with thousands of sensors and alarms situated around population centers – including throughout the capital. Depending on the epicenter of the quake, these alarms can give up to a minute of warning before the actual shaking begins.

During last night’s quake, I was laying in bed when I heard the alarm but initially disregarded it as a false alarm.

The alarm didn’t stop and I quickly got my chanclas and ran outside just as the shaking started. What started out as a gentle rolling quickly morphed into violent thrashing with cars shaking, alarms going off, sounds of explosions, lights flashing in the sky and the power turning off and on.

Videos on social media showed just how terrifying the quake was.

Whether you were inside your home or outside in the streets, last night’s quake was a powerful reminder of how seismically active the entire nation is. For many of us, it also served as a reminder to always keep clothes nearby and know where your keys are so you can get outside as quick as possible.

Many were also terrified of the flashing lights across the night sky.

Although many of the lights flashing across the sky were the result of exploding transformers, many others are result of a natural phenomenon that occurs during large earthquakes.

Residents in the capital ran out into the streets seeking some sort of shelter from the shaking.

Thanks to the alarm, most residents had at least 30 seconds to get outdoors away from swaying buildings. But once outside the commotion and emotions almost made it just as terrifying as being inside.

Some were even trapped in the newly installed Cablébus – which thankfully helped up well during the shaking.

These folks were stranded in a cable car (part of the Metro system that just opened in July) hanging more than 100 feet in the air. But thankfully, the system survived the quake – along with its riders – unscathed.

And, of course, Mexico quickly responded to all the drama with excellent memes.

No matter the occasion or news story or drama…Mexican memes rarely disappoint. Though for someone who thought they were going to die (dramatic I know), maybe it’s still too soon.

This one should have served as a warning for all of us.

It’s really starting to look like Mexico has a genuine ‘earthquake season.’ Although, of course, earthquakes are completely random and unpredictable – they can and have happened at any moment – the sheer number of major quakes in the month of September is very peculiar.

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