8.2 Earthquake Shakes Southern Mexico

Residents of Juchitan, Oaxaca in Mexico spent the day outside on September 8, fearing the collapse of their homes in the aftershocks following the largest earthquake to strike Mexico in a century. The earthquake measured 8.2 on the Richter scale and rocked southern Mexico on the evening of September 7. It left 96 people dead in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco.

Tremors continued during the next two days, with some reaching magnitudes of over 5.0, unnerving locals in Juchitan. Over a third of the Juchitan’s houses are now uninhabitable. The quake shook buildings as far as Mexico City and San Salvador, though both sustained little damage. According to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who visited Oaxaca and Chiapas following the disaster, roughly 50 million people felt the quake’s effects.

Municipalities in the region have appealed for aid from state and federal governments. They have been answered by local and military relief efforts.

“Don’t leave us alone,” pleaded Juchitan’s mayor, Gloria Sánchez López.

International governments have also stepped forward. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reassured Mexico, that victims of the tragedy can rely on his country for aid. The governments of Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Spain have offered additional assistance.

On the other hand, President Donald Trump did not reach out to Nieto until a week and a half after the tragedy and offered his condolences but no tangible assistance. Such a delay has prompted the Mexican government to rescind its own offer of aid to the United States in response to Hurricane Harvey. Trump has yet to acknowledge this offer.

Two days afterward, Hurricane Katia made landfall in the eastern state of Veracruz, where the Category 1 storm killed two people and flooded some areas.

Oaxaca and Chiapas are some of Mexico’s most impoverished regions, and the effects of the earthquake will be lasting. Juchitan’s hospital collapsed during the quake, and medical personnel were forced to move patients and equipment to a local elementary school where they operated during the night using lights from their cellphones.

“It’s a nightmare we weren’t prepared for,” reflected Juchitan City Council Member Pamela Teran. “A lot of people have lost everything.”

“The power of this earthquake was devastating,” said Nieto, addressing the people of Juchitan, “but we are certain that the power of unity, the power of solidarity, and the power of shared responsibility will be greater.”

As such, communities have stepped forward to dig trapped neighbors from rubble and restore power to disconnected homes. Locals used their personal vehicles to transport supplies to zones with now limited road-access.

The quake only barely affected Mexico City, where a smaller quake killed over 9,500 people in 1985.

The scariest part of it all is that if you are an adult, and you’ve lived in this city your adult life, you remember 1985 very vividly,” said Alberto Briseño, a 58-year-old bar manager. “This felt as strong and as bad.”

He added, “Now we will do what us Mexicans do so well: Take the bitter taste of this night and move on.”