The expression of incredulity dominated the faces of the people this morning. At one in the afternoon, Fernando Camarena was back at his workplace, on the 22nd floor of an office building on Paseo de la Reforma, in Mexico City. “Seismic alert. Seismic alert,” loudspeakers throughout the city began to shout relentlessly. Forty minutes after the drill that commemorated the devastating earthquakes of 1985 and 2017 at 12:19 p.m. on September 19, the alert has been given to warn of a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was 63 kilometers south of Coalcomán, in the state of Michoacán, and aftershocks have been felt in the capital and in the center of the country. The authorities have reported one death in Manzanillo, in the State of Colima. In the capital there have been several damages: fallen trees, collapsed bridges and buildings whose facades have cracks from end to end.
Camarena and the rest of the people who nervously went down to the same places as before could not believe it. “You never expect something like this to happen on the same day and at the same time,” Camarena said as she waited huddled together with her co-workers. In 2017, the 7.1 earthquake that took place on September 19 killed 369 people. That day, hours before, the drill had been carried out to remember the deceased of the 1985 earthquake (between 3,000 and 20,000 deaths, according to different estimates), and hours later the earthquake arrived. The alarm did not sound because there was no time: the epicenter was only 120 kilometers from Mexico City, and the destruction that the city suffered is still present. Hence the surprised look of some people, who did not know how to accept this coincidence.
In Colonia Juárez, the red building on the corner of Calle de Versalles and Calle de Atenas appears to have been built recently, with a freshly painted red façade. But the earthquake is not forgiving, and several cracks now cross its lateral facade. In fact, Civil Protection has surrounded the construction with a yellow tape that reads “passage prohibited.” The loud sound of the alarm has given way to a deathly silence inside and around this building.
A shoe shiner who worked across the street talks about the pieces he saw fall from the facade and that are scattered all over the sidewalk. “He was new, they had just painted him,” says the man sitting on his sidewalk while he waits for customers. On the street in front of the building, a man claims that firefighters have entered and evacuated the building. “There is no one inside anymore,” says the young man. “I work on the next street and I saw how some glass fell,” he says.
“Don’t be afraid,” a young boy told his girlfriend as he hugged her tightly. Another boy, Gabriel, smiles nervously when he is asked about the impression the earthquake has made on him. He says that they were going back to work when they heard the alarm. He has become very nervous. “I couldn’t believe it, people were shocked and nervous as we turned around and went back down. This day is cursed!” exclaimed Gabriel.
Firefighters have intervened in various parts of the city. In Colonia Jardines del Sur, in Xochimilco, the troops have removed a tree over 30 meters high that had collapsed on the road. In the municipality of Huixquilucan, in the State of Mexico, a bridge has a vertical crack that has sunk part of it. The mayor of that town has announced the closure of the bridge until it can be reviewed by Civil Protection.
In addition, the Chamber of Deputies and the Plenary of the Supreme Court have suspended their respective sessions. The president of the Board of Directors, Santiago Creel, has assured that the activity will be resumed after carrying out a “structural review of the property”.
In the street, under the tents, the toilets took the blood pressure of several people. This tremor, although it has hardly been felt beyond the swaying of the streetlights and the swaying of the lamps, for many it is distressing because it brings back to memory the one of 2017, which devastated especially the downtown neighborhoods of the city built on the old lake: the Roma, Countess, Center and Doctors.
In the In Tlilli bookstore, in the Roma Norte neighborhood, Rosa García has lived through the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes. That is why the shelves of her second-hand bookstore are connected to each other with rusty iron, to prevent the tremors knock them to the ground. “It has been exactly like in 2017, only that year the alert did not sound,” says García. She says that she is already used to earthquakes, but what she can’t get used to is the warning siren that sounds shrill when a new one comes. “You don’t get used to it! It’s much scarier than the earthquake itself,” she complains. It is still hard to believe that the last two earthquakes occurred on the same day of the year, a few hours apart, and just after the drills.
Do you think the date should be changed?
—Well, maybe yes, because you can’t live like that.
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