Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on November 1, 2017.

Aftershocks

Construction practices are blamed for hundreds of building collapses in Mexico City quake

BY ANGELO VERZONI

On September 19, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico, toppling buildings and killing over 300 people, mostly in Mexico City. The tremor occurred on the anniversary of the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed thousands. It also came on the heels of a magnitude 8.2 earthquake that rocked the southeast part of the country on September 7.

According to Antonio Macias, NFPA’s representative for Latin America and the Caribbean who lives in Mexico City and was attending a fire safety conference in the city on the day of the quake, hundreds of buildings have either collapsed or are in danger of collapsing in the country’s capital.

For Macias and many others, the incident raises serious questions about how strictly construction requirements are followed in the city. “Many of the buildings that collapsed were not compliant with construction codes and lacked proper permits, so I think there will need to be an analysis of buildings in the city to check if they’re compliant with the Mexico City building code,” Macias said.

A report by The Guardian found that Mexico City residents had filed thousands of complaints about construction violations prior to the quake, and many of the buildings that generated those complaints were badly damaged or ended up in ruins.

Despite the suspected construction shortcomings, both Macias and Olga Caledonia, NFPA’s director of International Operations, who was also in Mexico City during the quake, praised the calm and supportive reaction of civilians involved in the disaster. “From what I witnessed, Mexico’s commitment to educating citizens on how to respond in natural disasters is working,” said Caledonia. “The ongoing efforts of the country to practice safety measures showed in the way that people handled themselves and comforted each other.”

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Getty Images