In­ter­na­tional News

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Nora Mc­cready With ma­te­rial from The Guardian, NPR, ABC, and Al Jazeera.

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.

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