On Tuesday, September 19, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit South Central Mexico. The epicenter of the quake was in the state of Puebla, located approximately 120 km from Mexico City. As of Friday, September 22, death tolls stood at 282, 137 of whom died in the capital. This number is expected to rise as efforts to clear rubble continue and more bodies are found. Victims of the earthquake also face the threat of aftershocks, which could be acutely harmful given the structural instability caused by the initial strike.
The quake also devastated infrastructure, leaving whole communities homeless. The Puebla area is facing the most damage with 1,700 homes declared inhospitable and in need of demolishing in the coming months. Desperate families affected by the housing emergency are making pleas on social media for humanitarian aid. The government is struggling to deal with the widespread destruction.
Destruction within Mexico City is widespread, and at least 44 buildings were levelled by the quake. The damage in the capital is partly due to the high population density, but the impact of the earthquake was magnified by its geography. Mexico City is built on an ancient lakebed made of clay, which amplify seismic waves. As a result, tremors reverberate through the area with a devastating effect. The Mexican army and navy entered the city in the aftermath of the quake to participate in the relief effort. People still need to be rescued from collapsed buildings, and unstable structures need to be demolished. According to some, the army has caused added turmoil in the city by prematurely demolishing certain buildings, without adequately attempting to rescue people who may have been trapped.
The most recent quake occurred less than two weeks after the 8.1 magnitude quake, which was the most powerful earthquake in the country in over a centu- ry to reach the Southern coast of Mexico. While the timing of these events are very close, most experts claim that the timing is coincidence. Both quakes were caused by shifts in the Cocos plate, located just off the coast of the continent. The Cocos plate is gradually pushing underneath the North American plate, causing a massive pressure increase which is sporadically released in these destructive tremors. Shifts in these tectonic plates are a constant reality for Mexico, and while the cause of these two recent quakes are the same, their timing is coincidental.