The news could have been a lot worse. A magnitude 7.4 earthquake (downgraded from a 7.9 from earlier today) struck a rural part of Mexico near the border between Oaxaca and Guerrero at around noon local time earlier today. The effects of the quake, one of the largest of 2012, were felt all the way in Mexico City, some 200 miles away.
Fortunately, the city did not suffer any major structural damage. Reports of fallen bridges, collapsed buildings, and a handful of injuries did result from the quake, but by and large, the city was spared. Nervousness and confusion seemed to be the biggest result, as thousands of office workers evacuated buildings and poured out onto the streets of DF.
Twitter was buzzing immediately after the quake. DF mayor Marcelo Ebrard (@m_ebrard) kept citizens up to date with constant tweets. In the midst of the gravity of the situation, there was no shortage of satirical jokes. Comments about the earthquake being a ‘poke’ from the Mayans in 2012, references to the earthquake being a precursor to what will happen should the PRI win in July, and a comment about the earthquake’s ‘devastating impact on Mexico’s education system’ (oh wait, that actually existed prior to the quake!) were just a handful of most popular tweets that the earthquake provoked.
In the midst of online joking there was some bad news. The government reported at least seven injured and 800 homes destroyed, as well as numerous power outages. The towns near the quake’s epicenter were hit badly, and who knows what other damage has been done to the remote areas where communications are still down. Aftershocks are expected to continue throughout the night (there have already been two 5+ quakes near the epicenter), so the country is not yet out of the clear.
But Mexico dodged a bullet today. The earthquake was relatively shallow (20 km), which is usually correlated with more violent ground shaking than are earthquakes that occur at deeper depths. Recall that the Haiti earthquake of January 2010 was a magnitude 7.0, the devastating Chile quake of March 2010 was an 8.8. Unlike the Chile and Haiti quakes, however, the Mexico quake was in a remote area.
Hopefully today’s positive outcome will be taken as just that – a success for all of Mexico and a sign of improved government – and will not become too politicized with ‘official’ campaigning season around the corner.