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Mexico’s earthquake coincidence drives anxiety for many

by FABIOLA SÁNCHEZ, The Associated Press | September 20, 2022 at 11:00 p.m.
A resident walks through a street cordoned off amid debris from the previous day's earthquake in Coalcoman, Michoacan state, Mexico, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. The magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico’s central Pacific coast on Monday, killing at least one person. (AP Photo/Armando Solis)

MEXICO CITY -- As the parents of children killed when a school collapsed during Mexico's 2017 earthquake celebrated a Mass in their memory, the ground began to shake again.

"No, not again! My God, not again!" they shouted when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake rattled the capital Monday, killing two people in the Pacific coast state of Colima.

Three powerful earthquakes have struck Mexico on Sept. 19 -- in 1985, 2017 and now 2022. The unlucky coincidence has driven anxiety high for many. The last two quakes also came very shortly after the annual earthquake drill conducted every Sept. 19 to commemorate the devastating 1985 temblor.

Mexico's national Civil Defense Coordinator Laura Velázquez said Tuesday that the two deaths in Colima were due to parts of buildings collapsing. Ten people were injured -- nine in Colima and one in neighboring Michoacan.

More than 200 buildings were damaged, including dozens of schools and health centers, she said. Most of the damage was in those Pacific states, close to the Michoacan epicenter. Some 20 Mexico City buildings were damaged, but it was minor, she said.

On the morning of Sept. 19, 1985, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the center, south and west of the country, leaving some 9,500 dead.

"It's really strange, but a lot of people already don't like that day," said Jorge Ornelas, a call center coordinator. He said a lot of his acquaintances begin to worry about an earthquake come September.

"If we keep thinking that every Sept. 19 it's going to shake, it's going to continue happening every year, because what you think is always what happens," the 35-year-old Ornelas said.

Xyoli Pérez-Campos, a researcher in the seismology department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico's Geophysical Institute, said there was no physical reason for the coincidence of major earthquakes on a single day. Monday's earthquake was the result of the "interaction of the Cocos plate with the North America plate," which also generated the 1985 earthquake.

Five plates -- the North America, the Pacific, the Rivera, the Caribbean and the Cocos -- all run under Mexican territory.

"The plates break when it's their time to break," Pérez-Campos said. "What are they going to know about the calendar?"

photo A resident tosses materials from a building damaged by the previous day's earthquake in Coalcoman, Michoacan state, Mexico, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico’s central Pacific coast on Monday, killing at least one person. (AP Photo/Armando Solis)
photo A wall is cracked inside a government office the day after an earthquake in Coalcoman, Michoacan state, Mexico, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. The magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico’s central Pacific coast on Monday, killing at least one person. (AP Photo/Armando Solis)
photo Debris covers the floor of a church the day after an earthquake in Coalcoman, Michoacan state, Mexico, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico’s central Pacific coast on Monday, killing at least one person. (AP Photo/Armando Solis)
photo People walk to a meeting point on Paseo de la Reforma avenue as part of an earthquake simulation drill held to mark the anniversary of two past, deadly quakes in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Alarms for a real, 7.6 magnitude quake came less than an hour after this drill. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
photo People gather outside after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake was felt in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The quake hit at 1:05 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, which said the quake was centered near the boundary of Colima and Michoacan states. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
photo People stand outside after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake was felt in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The sign is for people from the fourth floor of a nearby building to gather there. The quake hit at 1:05 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, which said it was centered near the boundary of Colima and Michoacan states. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

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