Mexicans spooked by earthquake on anniversary of 1985 quake Mexico: Earthquake rocked Mexico City on Tuesday by a magnitude 7.1 quake which killed at least 100 people in the capital and 230 nationwide, 32 years to the day after another deadly temblor hit the city. So there was probably 100,000 tourists. To get a better idea about the high stakes treatment. So I was in the Embassy the next night at 6 or 7 o’clock when the major aftershock came. But the Mexican people recognized how much the Americans helped by sending assistance and helping in the reconstruction. Since I’d gone through earthquakes in San Francisco, and the big one in Caracas in our first assignment, I wasn’t scared or nervous. They pulled a few survivors out of the rubble, but mostly these buildings just came right down. Of a population of 18 million, an estimated 10,000 people were killed, and 50,000 were injured. All Rights Reserved. The Mexican government, thinking that it could handle the situation after the earthquake by themselves, initially refused any foreign aid. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that those were buildings that were probably built not to the standards which were in print, but not always observed, of how buildings ought to be built in a seismic zone. The 2017 Puebla earthquake struck at 13:14 CDT (18:14 UTC) on 19 September 2017 with an estimated magnitude of M w 7.1 and strong shaking for about 20 seconds. I took advantage to ask the chauffeur to go through various neighborhoods where we heard there was great damage. I really got my appreciation for the damage at 11 o’clock that night. I remember the back wall of my secretary’s apartment just fell out into the back yard. In 1985, Mexico City was the world’s largest urban area. We just sent advance teams directly to Mexico to get this set up on about 48-hour’s notice and coordinated with the embassy to work out a schedule which mainly involved the First Lady arriving, going to Los Pinos, meeting with de la Madrid, giving him the check, touring some sites of devastation around the city, meeting with the embassy staff and saying some words with them and then flying on to California. I think we actually got out in several places. She is not going to be able to do anything material. The Mexicans were profoundly dilatory about taking us up on our offers of help, and she wasn’t going to solve that problem. The deaths were so numerous that they had to use the baseball stadium as an outdoor morgue. An apartment building destroyed by an earthquake that struck Mexico City in 1985. Posted in Mexico City as a Minister Counselor for Public Affairs from 1985 to 1989, Ambassador Sally Grooms Cowal gives insight into some controversies surrounding Ambassador Gavin during her interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning August 2001. The control tower operation was down so the airport was closed. This was an administrative decision and Nancy Reagan was going to take a million dollar check to Los Pinos [the Presidential palace]. I don’t remember feeling sorry for myself. A lot of people hadn’t panicked the first day; the aftershock though brought many to the edge of desperation. Ambassador Gavin had to go to de La Madrid on some issues in order that we could help effectively. We had the Marines Residence, the Military Cemetery, the Defense Attaché’s Office, our military people at the Mexican Defense University. One of the things that was most important were inflatable bladders for water. More than 400 buildings collapsed and thousands more were damaged. The ...read more, On October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook the Kashmir region (a disputed territory controlled in part by Pakistan and India), along with sections of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. …The only untoward thing was the earthquake. The foreign media would always cover these things, and then report it, and then sometimes the Mexican media would be able to report on what the foreign media had presented. I said that the last thing in the world the Mexicans need is the First Lady coming to Mexico right now. It was pandemonium. What could one do to stop the quakes? Problems were compounded because the Government disaster relief office was destroyed and several of the largest hospitals collapsed during the first day, including the Juarez General Hospital where I went with the Ambassador three days later while they were still rescuing survivors, although each hour the number of corpses rose and survivors dropped. Partly because of inadequate building codes, the … Mexico certainly did not plan for earthquakes…. I had been officially appointed by the DCM when he left, to be in charge. As I noted above, the Navy Secretariat, which was in charge of disaster relief, was destroyed on the morning of the quake. Ambassador Gavin went to see Placido Domingo and his relatives for instance at a building that was destroyed so he could console surviving family members. There was a huge controversy. John Gavin’s nomination by the President caused consternation and some disdain in the Mexican press and the public because he was identified as an actor. I think I mentioned his mother’s family had settled in California before California became a state. What the aftershock did was make many people really panic. I went to the airport to meet the Chargé d’Affaires, Morris Busby, who was returning from Northern Mexico. But the greatest credit goes to the thousands of Mexicans that dug those first few days, saving hundreds of people. They weren’t evidently hostile but something could have happened to her in such a large crowd. We had to worry about the American School, the American Hospital, and other American institutions. This is the address to send it to. Assistance was just not flowing and not flowing fast enough, and people were without electricity and they were without water and they were without homes, and they began for the first time to organize themselves, in neighborhood groups and community groups, to do something about this. The earthquake resulted in around $3 billion to $4 billion in damage. I knew that many Embassy people took in Mexicans and donated things and sympathized. Gavin, who is very compassionate about these things, really felt the tragedy. He sometimes felt that you had to talk tough to Mexicans…. One of the first things that he did, he was very concerned and he was very interested and he wanted to make sure that appropriate assistance came from the United States. Fortunately, the quake was early enough in the morning that people weren’t yet in their offices. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! There were American guests at this hotel and one of the officials actually pulled out bodies. To this day, the Mexicans say it was less than 20,000. He got the military to get him a helicopter, and he wanted to personally survey the damage in Mexico City, not without reason, again. I was quickly told that this was probably going to happen so it’s not a question of whether it is desirable or not, it is a question of making it happen. On the other hand, on one of the first days, I called a Congressman in Los Angeles and asked him not to send a plane load of supplies, because they were not things that were needed. What could possibly be achieved by the First Lady’s going to Mexico except inconveniencing the Mexicans at a time of national disorder and stress and grieving and all the rest of it and getting some photo-ops for Nancy Reagan? It shook for thirty or forty seconds. The Marine guards of course were there. The first implosions were the biggest event of the week. Blog. 5,000–45,000 dead 30,000 injured The 1985 Mexico City Earthquakewas an earthquakethat happened in Mexico Cityon September 19, 1985. These was a great crowd of people milling around. It was 30 years ago today that at least 5,000 people — some estimates put the number at closer to 10,000, others at four times that — died in the powerful Mexico City earthquake of 1985. Most of the damage was focused on the historic downtown area of Cuauhtémoc. Tuesday's earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. © 2021 A&E Television Networks, LLC. Once there, the earthquake tremors caused the sediment layers to oscillate. Related pages. At any rate, he counted the number of buildings down and he made two observations to the press as he got off the helicopter. Any aid that we gave would be only a symbolic gesture, a drop in the bucket. Making matters worse, on the evening of September 20, a magnitude 7.5 aftershock shook the region. NARRATOR: When the earthquake occurred in 1985 the initial waves did in fact weaken as they approached the center of the country. The Secret Service had great difficulty with the Mexican authorities maintaining any kind of crowd control around her. People were all over the First Lady. Then I took Gavin through some of these neighborhoods. COWAL: Well, they would sometimes mention it, and that would cause problems, or they wouldn’t mention it, and that would cause problems, of course, with the embassy. A lot of countries don’t plan for earthquakes. Elliot Abrams went from the State Department, I went from the NSC, Jim Rosebush was then Nancy Reagan’s Chief of Staff and Elaine Crispin was the First Lady’s press secretary. Nancy Reagan’s briefing was very brief and not deeply substantive and she mainly spent the flights both to Mexico and California closeted in her state room. I remember we let every American, tourist or resident, come to the Embassy and write a one-page telegram. It made it extremely difficult to read these stories or they would turn the story around. Later, the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico City, led by John Bruton, collected large sums of money and rebuilt schools. Major quake of 7 4 magnitude hits mexico so susceptible to earthquakes 1985 mexico city earthquake 2017 central mexico earthquake mexico earthquake kills hundreds Mexico Earthquake Strongest In A Century Kills Dozens The New York TimesHere S What We Know About Mexico Earthquake Abc News Australian Broadcasting CorporationMexico S Strongest Earthquake … On September 19, 1985, at 7:18 in the morning, the residents of Mexico City were jolted awake by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest to ever hit the area. That second night I was in the Embassy until 1 or 2 in the morning. "use strict";(function(){var insertion=document.getElementById("citation-access-date");var date=new Date().toLocaleDateString(undefined,{month:"long",day:"numeric",year:"numeric"});insertion.parentElement.replaceChild(document.createTextNode(date),insertion)})(); FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. The day after the earthquake I was called at the NSC and asked how do you think the Mexicans would react to the First Lady coming to Mexico? Many worked most of the first 72 hours straight, either in the Embassy or outside. They needed that much space to lay out the corpses. As the National Security Council’s Staff Director for Latin America from 1985 to 1986, Ambassador G. Philip Hughes was involved in planning First Lady Nancy Reagan’s visit to Mexico City, which he questioned as being ill-timed; he was interviewed by Kennedy beginning August 1997. Some people said later that I was too calm and didn’t appear very sympathetic. To this day, Embassy people remember that event and the talk I gave. Soup kitchens were set up by the people to keep the diggers working. On the morning of September 19, 1985, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit the western states of Mexico and including Mexico City. We all flew to Mexico in this nearly empty plane spending a lot of hours in the air. The Embassy had ten or twelve other physical facilities around the city. We landed in Mexico and went through this program which involved going to Los Pinos, giving the check, having a little talk with de la Madrid, and going around touring a number of sites. They had left me in charge of the Mission but Washington didn’t know that. I think it was on Day 3 that Ambassador Gavin sent me to the airport to see if we could get certain goods released. The building shook like hell. PASTORINO: Mexico was then ending the Lopez-Portillo Administration, and entering into the six year term (sexenio) of Miguel De La Madrid. Quakes, most of them minor, and none as strong as the one in 1985, remained a constant feature of life in Mexico City. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government or of ADST. Kramer, a. That was due to a tremendous effort on part of Embassy people to coordinate the activity, efforts which of course were invisible to the outside…. I also remember some cases where overwork and exhaustion caused Embassy people to almost crack. PASTORINO: No official Americans and just a few American citizens. On the morning of September 19, 1985, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit the western states of Mexico and including Mexico City. Western Mexico is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes with the Pacific plate and Cocos plate moving against the North American plate actively. And we began to prepare cables about the situation. Officials say at … Mexico City is on a plateau surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. On Sept. 19, 1985, an earthquake registering 8.1 on the Richter scale struck Mexico City. The earthquake lasted around three minutes causing older buildings and poorly constructed infrastructure to fall. I don’t think I succeeded and he had to go to the Foreign Secretary, and finally to President de la Madrid. You had one sentence. One is of two American Embassy officials who attempted to save lives of people caught in downed buildings. HUGHES:  During the brief period that I was on the NSC staff in connection with Mexico, my main activities were planning a trip that Nancy Reagan made to Mexico and accompanying her to give a symbolic donation of a million dollars to the victims of the September 1985 Mexico City earthquake and dealing with a presidential phone call between de la Madrid and Ronald Reagan. I was amazed. But for the most part, American government officials acted with great courage. Financially, we had already offered the Mexicans a variety of technical assistance from sniffer dogs to special jacks and engineering gear to try to rescue people from collapsed buildings. The momentum carried me; there were things that had to be done. On September 19, 1985, the Mexico City area was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed at least 9,500 people. Western Mexico is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes with the Pacific plate and Cocos plate moving against the North American plate actively. A DEA official and a Foreign Service Officer happened to be downtown in a hotel for a breakfast meeting when the quake struck. As you know, Mexico City airport is very close to the downtown, and thus very close to much of the damage. Of course, both of those facts, and they probably were facts, that he announced, were things that the Mexican government didn’t want to hear. But, people said I calmly addressed the group, telling them what had happened as best we could determine. On the other position. In addition, 250,000 people lost their homes, and … We got on an Air Force I airplane. And even when Presidential orders were given, they were sometimes not followed, or could not be followed. You could see the appreciation of the families of these children as they went to the airport to welcome their children back…. The 8.1-magnitude quake struck Mexico City on Sept. 19, 1985, followed by a 7.5-magnitude aftershock one day later. That was my view. I really caught hell for that from the staff later because the Department neglected to tell anyone or inform our families. Despite the fact that the disaster was one of the most powerful and destructive quakes ever to hit a populated area of the United States, ...read more, The 1964 Alaska earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America, struck Alaska’s Prince William Sound, about 74 miles southeast of Anchorage. Robert S. Pastorino describes the disaster and the embassy’s response to it. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake: an excerpt from “Shooter” ... They’d built a lot of the new buildings in Mexico City, with the elevator in the center of the building to form a steel core like the rods in reinforced concrete. They were busy digging; it was dark. Connie Gavin set up a foundation, very quickly, within a month, and collected money to bring kids that were badly maimed for re-constructive surgery in Los Angeles. I remember helping develop a security plan of where to put the police lines to keep the people an appropriate distance away. Interested in Recording Your Oral History, Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training. I then assured the American staff, all of whom had come to work, that their families were being informed and we shouldn’t be tying up the few Embassy lines that might still be operative. I liaised with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance[in USAID] and we got a check cut for a million dollars. As for me, I was frequently told that I remained fairly calm the whole time. 2017 Puebla earthquake; Images for kids The first thing, the highest priority, was to determine that all of the Embassy people were safe, that all official American personnel were safe. ZUCKERMAN:  It was again a period when a chargé ran the Embassy, and John Ferch had gone on to Cuba as head of our mission there and later became our Ambassador in Honduras, and there was a rather long gap before John Gavin, Reagan’s appointee as Ambassador, was confirmed and arrived on the job. The quake ruptured the San Andreas fault to the north and south of the city, for a total of 296 miles, and ...read more, On October 17, 1989, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area, killing 67 people and causing more than $5 billion in damages. I think that on the second day shipments were already beginning to come in from the States. Problems became serious I think, for Gavin, in 1985, after the great earthquake in Mexico City, at a time that I was already in Ottawa. ©Copyright 1998-2021 Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training I told them we would need them in the Embassy, but their personal considerations were clearly more important…. In the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake, an early-alert earthquake warning system was established in Mexico City and other safety measures were enacted. He may have been right, but being right was not necessarily the objective of diplomacy. That quickly spread from earthquake-related things to environmentally related things, the fact that Mexico City was such a polluted city. Learn how to update your browser. I am so-and-so and I’m ok. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. The next day there were a number of lesser quakes, the strongest of which measured 7.8. So the DCM/ Charge officially appointed me. Heavy machinery, medical supplies, and excavation equipment descended into the city to help with rescue efforts. Ambassador Gavin was on his way to Europe on vacation and Deputy Chief of Mission [DCM] Morris Busby was in Northern Mexico on fisheries negotiations. 1985-09-19 13:17:47 UTC 8.0 magnitude, 27 km depth Arteaga, Michoacán, Mexico 8.0 magnitude earthquake 1985-09-19 13:17:47 UTC at 13:17 September 19, 1985 UTC Finally, after some trying, some genius in our Communications section patched me through to Washington through Louisiana, and Atlanta. It was still run totally by the PRI. In response, citizens organized their own rescue brigades. Within a few more hours I learned that this was probably going to happen so we turned to and set up the visit. More than 10,000 people died as a result of the quake, some 30,000 others were injured and an estimated 250,000 people were left homeless. It had a magnitudeof 8.1, and the number of people killed added up to 10,000 deaths. We probably had 25,000 resident Americans and many, many American tourists. It was not totally closed. The earlier quake left behind a … It turned out later that one of his close friends, Placido Domingo, lost some of his family in a collapse of a twenty-five story building. I got on the phone about 10:00 a.m., when we found out everyone was okay, and tried to call Washington and tell the State Department that the American and Mexican Embassy personnel were unharmed. In the aftermath of the earthquake, about 3,500 buildings had collapsed or were seriously damaged. (The disaster exposed the fact that government corruption had allowed for lax enforcement of building codes.) It was the worst earthquake to hit Taiwan–where quakes are common due to its location in a seismically active ...read more, At 4:31 a.m. on January 17, 1994, a 6.7-magnitude quake struck the San Fernando Valley, a densely populated area of Los Angeles located 20 miles northwest of the city’s downtown. Some of these buildings were ready to fall down and they were dangerous. I was one of the few people in the building. It was still peaceful. It was autumn, September. He had a tendency shared by almost all politically appointed ambassadors, including [Patrick] Lucey at times, to sometimes speak out on Mexican affairs as if they were presidents of Mexico rather than ambassadors to the country. He got a helicopter and he flew over and counted the number of buildings down, and many of them were apartment buildings. We also have to remember that there was a major aftershock thirty six hours later, about 7 o’clock at night the next day. And neither one of these figures probably counted Mexican-Americans or Mexicans that have family in the States. Usually it was items that were needed, but sometimes Americans rush to clean out their basements and send whatever is available, and then they feel good and take a tax break. A study in contrasts in american history study 1985 earthquake mexico city case. It turned out I was in charge of the Embassy. I went onto the roof and I could see buildings collapsed within two or three blocks. Mexico City Earthquake: September 19, 1985, 1985 Mexico City Earthquake: Slow Government Response. He was a cousin of one of the leading writers of Mexico, Carlos Fuentes, who he called Charlie Fountain. Mexico's president was Miguel de la Madrid, champion of a failed "moral renewal" campaign, and the city's mayor was Ramón Aguirre Velázquez, a man close to the president and a candidate to succeed him. In fact, some of the neighborhoods close to it were badly damaged. I had the great honor to cut the ribbon at one project where I went with Henry Cisneros and Bob Krueger because San Antonio, where Cisneros was the Mayor, donated the money to rebuild a school. Mexico City Earthquake, 1985. Within the next couple hours, we made sure the local Mexican staff was ok. It was the only time no one paid much attention to the American Ambassador. I think I went home at 4:00AM and came back at 6:00 AM. The phone system failed almost completely shortly thereafter. It had a magnitude of 8.1, and the number of people killed added up to 10,000 deaths. Robert S. Pastorino We had dozens of calls and cables coming in from the Consulates, from all over Mexico. I was in the Embassy in my office at 7:30 in the morning. Q: How many Americans were killed, do you know? I told the State Department Operations Center that I was speaking on behalf of the Chargé and that the American staff was fine. Nancy Reagan’s trip was I think her first foray into a foreign policy role. It was just awfully difficult to try to read it. What you like fries and coke determine their prices. National Security Council’s Staff Director for Latin America from 1985 to 1986. So they wouldn’t just report the facts and then put their editorial opinion on the editorial page, saying he shouldn’t have spoken this way or he didn’t have the facts corrected, it would all be interwoven in the same story. As Mexico City is situated on an ancient lakebed plateau … Did you know? At that time, all the lines went dead. I let it shake (what else could I do?) Research a process analysis for errors in causal analysis is however the magnitude and type of strategy is required. Almost always no smoke, no dust, and every brick falls right where it’s supposed to. COWAL:  I think the most controversial thing that he [Ambassador Gavin] did, at least in my time there, happened just before I arrived. Ambassador Gavin was taken up in a helicopter the day after the quake to survey the damage in order to get a sense of the assistance that would be needed. It was very interesting, and Gavin was not without his role in all of that. As well, the tremors led to gas mains to break causing fires and explosions throughout Mexico City. Then we went to the embassy and she gave a speech. Even if it had not been destroyed, it didn’t have much equipment and expertise. One threatened to jump off the balcony because of some issue. Considerable damage and injuries were reported in other parts of the Umbria region. As an aftershock struck on September 20, the Mexican government then announced that it would be willing to accept help. It is the third largest country in Latin America and has one of the largest populations—more than 100 million—making it the home of more Spanish speakers than any other ...read more. I stayed in the Embassy the day and night of the first quake until about 4:00 a.m. Mexico City earthquake of 1985. Q: Well, then, if Gavin would make these statements, like obviously there was a problem of corruption which led to deaths, could the media mention that? There was also not much of a line between editorial opinion of the newspaper and the reporting on the news. It had a magnitude of 8.1, and the number of people killed added up to 10,000 deaths. The Embassy had a telephone network, in which everyone calls everyone else in a certain order. As far as we knew, no staff person’s home or structure collapsed and no staff person was hurt badly. Q: I get the sense here that throughout this whole conversation, the earthquake and the aftermath didn’t do much to cement good Mexican-U.S. relations. They would sometimes report his criticisms, but you would sort of lose the train of it before you got done. To this day I can’t remember a word I said. A lot of people were saved that night by the digging, survivors being dug out minute by minute. The most vivid memories of that night were of the Mexican people digging frantically in the piles of rubble, with no lights, no electricity, and no help from the government. These two guys heard screams and dove in to the flooded basement waters of the severely damaged hotel trying to save drowning hotel guests. The event was televised nationwide and in those parts of Mexico City which had electricity. T he earthquake that struck Mexico City on Tuesday hit on the same exact calendar date on which the capital was hit by a violent earthquake in 1985. On September 19, 1985, at 7:17 A.M., a Richter magnitude 8.1 earthquake occurred on the Pacific coast of Mexico. PASTORINO: Between the governments it probably didn’t. The effects of the quake were particularly devastating because of the type of ground upon which the city sits. Maybe that was because I had been through many earthquakes before, including one just as serious. The airport runways were thought to be damaged on the first day. So, it may be that people to people relations were actually improved…, Ambassador G. Philip Hughes The leading newspaper of the day was called Excélsior, and it was truly an awful newspaper. 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