People evacuating to the Zócalo main plaza of downtown Mexico City during the quake. Photo: Facebook

By MARK LORENZANA

A 7.7 magnitude earthquake shook Mexico on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 19, just minutes after a nationwide earthquake drill or “simulacro nacional” was held to commemorate the victims of the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes.

Mexico’s National Seismological Service reported that the epicenter of the quake was 63 kilometers south of Coalcomán, Michoacán, but it could be felt in Jalisco, as well as as in Mexico City.

After the earthquake, Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum issued a statement, saying that no major damage had been reported in the capital. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), through his Twitter account, reported that one person died in Manzanillo, Colima, after a fence toppled over her.

Likewise, on the morning of Monday, López Obrador led a solemn ceremony in the Zócalo main plaza of downtown Mexico City, where the flag was raised to half-staff, in memory of the victims of the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes, both of which occurred on Sept. 19.

López Obrador, accompanied by Sheinbaum and members of his cabinet, walked from the National Palace to the main plaza, where he led the raising of the flag and the singing of the Mexican national anthem.

AMLO then sent his condolences to all the relatives of those who lost their lives in the earthquakes.

“This ceremony is to remember everyone. Those who lost their lives, their family, friends. This is also to remember the heroism of many citizens who did everything they could to save lives,” López Obrador said. “We have to move forward, to prepare ourselves. Education and preparation is essential to face these natural phenomena.”

The nationwide earthquake drill on Monday was held in the capital and eight Mexican states — State of México (EdoMéx), Michoacán, Guerrero, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Morelos, Oaxaca and Chiapas — organized by the civil protection authorities. It is estimated that 14,000 loudspeakers emitted the alert throughout Mexico City.

On Sept. 19, 1985, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake occurred in the Pacific coast of Mexico, causing the most damage in the capital, 350 kilometers from the epicenter. At least 10,000 people died, although unofficial figures peg the casualties at more than 50,000. Property damage amounted to $5 billion, with the collapse of over 800 buildings, including hotels, hospitals, schools and businesses.

Exactly 32 years later, on Sept. 19, 2017, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City, which toppled 40 buildings, killed over 300 and injured more than 6,000. The earthquake that struck in 2017, according to experts, was a rare “bending” earthquake, which occurs when the bent tectonic plate snaps, and seismic waves emanate outward from the breaking point, causing the earth to tremble.

José Luis Mateos, a physicist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that the probability of three earthquakes occurring on the same day in different years is only 0.000751 percent.

Mexico is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region around much of the rim of the Pacific Ocean where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

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