It’s 21 years today since Mexico City was hit by ‘The Big One’. One September 19th 1985, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, which reduced hundreds of buildings to rubble, seriously damaged thousands more and left thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people dead. In less than 3 minutes.
The official figures put the death toll at just under 5,000. Nobody seriously believes it was anything much less than 10,000, whilst other NGO’s put the toll as high as 30 to 40 thousand. Regardless of the exact number, it destroyed much of the city and many of the inhabitants.
There’s a biggish quake here every couple of years or so. Biggish being plus 7 on the Richter scale. I have been through a few 5 point something quakes here in the last year and it is a little eerie. Not a sensation I’ve ever felt on a fairground ride or simulator, but something quite different. It’s very peculiar to feel everything rocking from side to side. It’s peculiar because it is literally everything….floor, sofas, walls.
One of the tell tale signs that an earthquake is a really big and therefore dangerous one, are the terrible cracking sounds as the bricks in buildings start crushing each other. That’s when it is time to get out! Of all the people I’ve spoken to this is the one thing most of them remember from 1985, the ones who were inside buildings anyway. The cracking sounds….
Some of the collapsed buildings were left there for years, some over 10 years, with there simply being no resources to make good the damage. In the immediate aftermath, there was no television, no gas, no electricity and no water for days, weeks or even months. If you lived in the north or south of the city things weren’t so bad. In the central areas where the city lies on a dried lake bed, the silt and mud liquified, making the destruction all the worse.