Mexico Earthquake: ‘I Thought I Was Going to Die When Pieces of the Ceiling Began to Fall’

Empleados de la Ciudad de México en trabajos de remoción de escombros. Imagen del autor.

Mexico City employees working on debris removal. Image by J. Tadeo.

Mexico has been hit by two violent earthquakes in September 2017. The first, which registered 8.2 on the Richter scale, occurred on September 7 and caused close to 100 deaths, mostly in Oaxaca and Chiapas in southwestern Mexico. The second, which occurred on September 19, killed at least 250 people and severely damaged parts of Mexico City and five states in country's center.

In the city of Oaxaca, Global Voices interviewed a man named Sergio, who is in charge of a collection center for victims. He warned:

No se puede llegar hasta Juchitán a menos que sea con una persona que conoce el camino, ya que hay grietas. Además, los pobladores de otras comunidades están muy enojados porque no han recibido ayuda del gobierno, entonces asaltan las camionetas con víveres que van hacia Juchitán. Aquí nosotros estamos haciendo el acopio, lo que traigan, lo pueden dejar con nosotros y de aquí lo llevaremos a los más afectados, no como los gobernantes que sólo se roban las donaciones.

You can’t get to Juchitán unless it is with a person who knows the way, as there are crevices.  Also, villagers from other communities are very angry because they have not received help from the government, so they raid supply trucks that are heading to Juchitán. We are doing the collection here, what people bring, they can leave it with us and from here, we will take it to the most affected, unlike the governing class who only steal the donations.

Sergio, encargado de un centro de acopio en Oaxaca. Imagen del autor.

Sergio, in charge of a collection center in Oaxaca. Image by J. Tadeo.

In Mexico City, September 19 will never cease to be an emblematic date. Thirty-two years ago, a pair of strong earthquakes practically destroyed the city and claimed more than 12,000 lives. Coincidentally, on September 19, 2017, an earthquake shook the city again just a few hours after the yearly commemorating drill to raises awareness.

Global Voices interviewed an office worker, who only wanted to be identified as Guillermo:

Había venido al Perisur (centro comercial en el sur de la capital) a comprar unas cosas y fue cuando empezó a moverse. Los de seguridad nos dijeron que no podíamos salir, pero cuando se puso peor hasta ellos corrieron. Había muchas señoras con niños pequeños y los venían arrastrando hacia la salida. Fue horrible, pensé que me iba a morir cuando empezaron a caer pedazos del techo.

I had come to Perisur (a shopping center in the south of the capital) to buy some things and that was when it began to move. The security guys told us that we couldn’t leave but when it got worse, even they ran. There were a lot of ladies with small children and they were dragging them towards the exit. It was horrible, I thought I was going to die when pieces of the ceiling began to fall.

On the streets of Mexico City, workers are clearing debris accompanied by hundreds of volunteers who are eager to help in any way that they can.

The armed forces have been deployed and, at least in Mexico City, they were ordered to take operational control and command in the rescue actions to avoid further casualties.

El Ejército y la Marina Armada de México han tomado el mando en las acciones de rescate. Imagen del autor.

The Mexican Army and Navy have taken command in the rescue operations. Image by J. Tadeo.

Global Voices was also in the Narvarte neighborhood (central region of the capital), at the intersection of Morena and Nicolás San Juan, where a semi-destroyed housing building can be seen. There, we talked with Margarita, who commented:

Es muy triste ver a la gente que esta aquí afuera y que ha perdido su casa, pero miren bien el edificio, al menos tuvieron tiempo de salir y no hay personas atrapadas. A pocas cuadras hay brigadistas y centros de acopio. Creo que debe hacerse notar que las construcciones han cambiado, y si bien hay decenas de derrumbes, en la mayoría de los casos la gente pudo escapar y ponerse a salvo. Deberían mostrar eso, deberían los medios tradicionales difundir fotos de los edificios que no cayeron, en lugar de estar buscando la nota sensacionalista.

It’s very sad to see the people who are out here and have lost their house, but look at the building, at least they had time to leave and there are no people trapped. A few blocks away, there are brigade members and collection centers. I think it should be noted that buildings have changed, and while there are dozens of landslides, in most cases, people were able to escape and get to a safe place. They should show that, traditional media should broadcast photos of buildings that did not fall, instead of looking for sensationalism.

Edificio dañado durante el sismo del 19-S en la Colonia Narvarte de la Ciudad de México. Imagen del autor.

Damaged building during the September 19, 2017 earthquake in the Narvarte neighborhood in Mexico City. Image of J. Tadeo.

The earthquake happened at quarter past 1 in the afternoon, when most people are working in offices and shops. The desperation to get home caused people to take to the streets, clogging roads as well as telecommunications.

Mexicanos aterrorizados tras el sismo del 19-S (2017). Imagen compartida por Raúl Morales y utilizada en esta pieza con su autorización.

Mexicans terrified after the September 19, 2017 earthquake. Image shared by Raúl Morales and used in this article with permission.

Public hospitals, such as the Mexican Social Security Institute pictured below, used their terraces to attend to the wounded who were arriving.

El Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social se prepara para recibir pacientes en la explanada de uno de sus hospitales. Imagen del autor.

The Mexican Social Security Institute prepares to receive patients on the front steps of one of its hospitals. Photo by J. Tadeo.

This story is still developing.

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