M5.8 Earthquake Strikes Mexico: 16 June 2013

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Damage from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Photo: USGS

Damage from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Photo: USGS

Historic Earthquakes in Mexico

The Cocos subduction zone has been, and continues to be, the source of many large and sometimes damaging earth tremors. The largest recorded occurred in 1932 and had a magnitude of M8.1 (almost 200 times larger than the M5.8 of 16 June), while as recently as 2012 the country experienced tremors of M6.5 and M7.4.

The most notorious earthquake to strike Mexico remains that of September 1985. At M8.0 it was a major seismic event by any standards (in a typical year the Earth sees one or two tremors of this size) but, unlike the larger M8.1 of 1932 which killed 45 people, the death toll ran to at least 9,500 and possibly many more – many of them in Mexico City, hundreds of kilometres away.

The reason for this is not just the typically shallow depth but the fact that Mexico City is built on a former lake bed, a geological setting which amplifies shaking and which contributed to the collapse of many tall buildings.

Recent Mexico Quakes

Recent earthquakes in Mexico have not, however, typically caused major damage or injuries, with just 31 earthquake-related deaths in the country since 2000, despite the repeated significant tremors striking the area.

Sources

Sky News online. Mexico: 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes. (2013). Accessed 16 June 2013

USGS. M5.8 – 22km W of Jolalpan, Mexico. (2013). Accessed 16 June 2013

USGS. Historic earthquakes list. Accessed 16 June 2013

Yeats, R. Active Faults of the World. (2012). Cambridge University Press.

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