As an Englishman, I have never had much reason to worry about natural disasters other than on a purely humanitarian level when I have watched devastation take place on the television. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and tornadoes are not something that we really worry about on the British Isles. We may freak out when the waves reach over the top of Torquay’s sea wall, or when it snows for more than 3 days, but other than that natural disasters were never something that I had in my mind, until I came to Mexico.
Mexico City was absolutely destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1985, it left buildings razed, people dead and a city in crisis. The quake in ’85 served as a great learning experience for the city and it has been ready for another ever since.
I have felt very slight tremors since my time here, nothing scary but certainly weird, the ground moving like a boat in high seas seems entirely unnatural, despite the fact that it is of course on the contrary.
Last night however, shit got real, around 1145 we heard the Earthquake alarm sound in the city streets below. We live on the top floor of a 21 story building and we had made the decision long ago that we would not risk the 42 flights of stairs during a quake but rather ride it out.
Around 1 minute after the alarm, it started, we swung from side to side at a slow pace to begin with but soon the swings got bigger, the vibrations began to rattle through your body as the concrete foundations swooned and swayed. Unlike being on a boat however, this was more than just gentle movement, it started to get more and more aggressive, things started cracking and falling in other apartments as we entered the lap of the gods. Strangely, I felt weirdly calm throughout the experience, even when one of my Mexican neighbours went into freak out mode.
The quake lasted for 86 seconds, which is strange because I’m pretty sure it went on for at least 86 minutes. As I stood in the centre of the building, hugging my girlfriend and our dog, I can honestly say that at no point did I think the building would fall, or that death could be a possibility.
Having had a day to consider this I have decided that how I felt during the quake was not as a brave man, scared by nothing and willing to die to protect his family ( I am all of those things of course, but not last night,) instead I was a naive and unsuspecting visitor experiencing his first quake, unsure as to whether this counted as a large or small one, unsure of the very real consequences that could have taken place and utterly unable to connect the devastation that could have happened, with the Earth’s willingness to do the hokey-cokey.
As it turned out, Mexico suffered the biggest quake in over a century at 8.1 magnitude in the epicentre of Chiapas. This one was even bigger than ’85 yet the quake was of a different variety so devastation did not ensue. Thankfully there are very few deaths across both the country and the city, perhaps preparations that were put in place served the country went well, perhaps we got lucky, all I know is that it was an experience which I will never forget, and I’ll sure as hell be better prepared for the next one.