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Mexico City Earthquake
The earthquake in Mexico in 1985 is considered to be one of the most devastating earthquakes in the history of the United States with the magnitude of 8.1 according to the Richter scale (Caron, Kelly and Telesetsky 115). The disaster became famous for causing the heaviest damages for buildings (Towhata 70). The earthquake revealed the flaws in the construction of the buildings, the lack of preventable measures, and the inability of the government to protect and save the citizens. The paper will discuss the nature of earthquakes, the description and consequences of Mexico City Earthquake.
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The earthquake is the result of an abrupt release of energy in a space inside the Earth. The voltage exceeds the environmental resistance of the medium, which in turn leads to a permanent deformation in the hearth, where a discharge of accumulated tension is located. Spasmodically released energy expands beyond the deformed portion in the form of elastic waves. The space inside the Earth, where the release of energy and the deformation occurs, is called the earthquake source. The projection of the surface of the Earth on the hypocenter is called the epicenter of the earthquake. The distance from the hypocenter to the epicenter is the depth of the earthquake source.
Thus, the earthquakes represent tremors and vibrations of the crust of the earth, which are often caused by the tectonic activity. Human and material losses caused by the earthquakes are measured by the degree of damage inflicted to the buildings. There are three types of earthquakes that are caused by different factors: tectonic, volcanic and landslip. Tectonic earthquake is the most occurring and the strongest type of the natural phenomenon. The movement of tectonic plates provokes such earthquakes. The earthquake is a natural phenomenon that cannot be predicted in the majority of instances. Thus, the earthquake can cause huge damage. In fact, it is necessary to obtain the information about the seismic classification of the living area in order to increase the resistance of buildings.
Description of Mexico City Earthquake
Mexico earthquake occurred in the Pacific Ocean. Actually, an explosion in the tectonic plate caused this natural phenomenon. The main blow fell on the central and northern Mexico regions, where poor people lived. In addition, there were many industrial enterprises in the regions.
In recent decades, Mexico has become one of the most densely populated cities with a population equal to over 18 million people. Thus, any disaster could result in a huge number of human victims. The subsoil can explain the high degree of vulnerability of the city to the earthquake. The lake dried by the Spanish conquistadors was located under the huge masses. Such a situation caused soil liquefaction, which was a consequence of the instability of buildings.
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The power of the earthquake on September 19, 1985 reached 8.1 magnitude on the Richter scale (Caron, Kelly and Telesetsky 115).Moreover, the earthquake was very strong and lasted for a long time. The disaster began, when the majority of the residents were going to work or school. Thus, it was a complete surprise. If the earthquake would begin two hours later, the consequences would be much worse since the institutions, banks, shopping centers, schools and universities would be full of people. The earthquake caused death of about 9,500 people and caused injuries of about 30,000 people (Caron, Kelly and Telesetsky 115). Many people were forced to leave their homes. It is estimated that the quake seriously affected an area of approximately 825,000 square kilometers, caused between 3 and 4 billion U.S. dollars of damage, and was felt by almost 20 million people (Michoacan). The greatest harm was caused to the historic center, which was rich in government offices, colonial monuments, commercial buildings, educational and cultural institutions.
Next night, the city experienced the power of new tremors. The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Michoacan state coastal mountains, and the powerful wave moved to the settlements. The buildings in Colima, Guerra, Michoacan, Morelos and Veracruz were seriously damaged. Huge landslides and rock avalanches descended nearby Jalisco and Colima and damaged the roads significantly. The consequence of the earthquake was the tsunami that caused huge damage to Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo. The change of water level in wells and reservoirs was observed even in Texas, New Mexico and Idaho.
Consequences of Mexico City Earthquake
The earthquake of 1985 resulted in the most powerful destruction ever recorded in the history. The earthquake brought the major damage to Mexico City. Local business center and the majority of institutions were greatly damaged. The residents accused the political authorities of the absence of control over the flaws of the construction of buildings. The city grew rapidly. As a result, high-rise buildings that produced an excellent impression were built of materials of poor quality. The earthquake revealed the absence of development plans and deficiencies in the entire construction system.
Another factor that affected the consequences of the earthquake was the attitude of the government to the problems of the citizens. Many victims of the disaster died due to slow rescue response of the government, not because of heavy injuries. The earthquake occurred during the slow economic period. Mexico experienced deep crisis that forced the authorities to act in accordance with the fiscal austerity in order to prevent financial catastrophe. After the earthquake, the government carried on the pre-disaster economic policy. The officials rejected the foreign aid in order to prevent the increase in the national debt. The factory owners intended to save their property, not employees. Such actions persuaded citizens that the government was focused on social and political control, and minimizing the economic loss instead of providing reasonable help to the victims. According to Aridjis, in 1985, people lost their fear of and respect for the government officials, regarding them with mounting distrust (n. p.). Even today, no one can explain the response of the President to the disaster. As a result of the inaction of the authorities, civil society lost trust and fear of the corrupt officials. The lack of governmental attention to the needs of citizens forced the population to take active participation in the recovery.
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Heavy equipment was used to clear the blockages. Field hospitals were developed for providing the first aid for the people from destroyed buildings and affected areas. The trained dogs provided invaluable assistance as they were able to find hundreds of people. Saragoza, de Haro, and Guzman state that the earthquake presented not only the flaws of the construction and building codes, but also the unpreparedness of the Mexican government (222). Instead, the disaster revealed the focus of the authorities on aiding business.
Another important consideration that seriously aggravated the situation was the fact that Mexico City was built on the territory of partially dried and partially backfilled Lake Texcoco. Apart from the unreliability of the soil, saving people and restoration of the city was challenging because the city was located at the bottom of a huge bowl that did not allow the dust to dissipate quickly. People dealt with the flooding caused by the torrential rains that represented the source of aftershocks that continued for months. In addition, during the development of the territory, the features of location of the city were not carefully considered. The territory of the city is surrounded by the mountains of volcanic origin. Therefore, the territory of Mexico City is a seismic hazard, and this fact should be taken into account. Loose soils, different density of layers and poor design of individual buildings played a crucial role in the disastrous consequences. When the seismic waves reached the city, the individual phases of the waves intensified because of the structural features of the surface layers and the physical properties of the soil.
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Such a situation presented the necessity to study the seismic areas of the world and take them into consideration during the construction of the cities. The key factors in increasing the resiliency of the city consist in understanding the vulnerability and eliminating the disaster risks. The partnership of government and civil society is crucial for efficient readiness and quick response in case of disaster. The Mexico City earthquake has changed the dynamics of relationship between the authority and the community. The system of citizen participation should remain a fundamental part of disaster planning.
Earthquakes present a serious threat to humanity due to the volume of damage and the lack of tools and techniques for prediction. Mexico City Earthquake is an example of tectonic earthquakes. In fact, it was unexpected and caused a serious damage not only to the city but also to the neighboring areas. This earthquake destroyed the lives of thousands of people, forced people to leave homes, and destroyed a huge number of historical, business and cultural buildings. The earthquake shows the imperfection of the government, the power of the unity among people, and the need for a deep study of tectonic areas in the world. Moreover, the consequences brought by the earthquake showed people that the quality of the building is the priority as many losses could be prevented by paying attention to the construction of building.
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