Killer quake in Mexico remembered
MEXICO CITY -- (AP) -- Flags were lowered to half-staff, memorial
celebrated in empty lots where buildings once stood, and ambulances sounded
their sirens Tuesday to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the massive 1985
earthquake in Mexico City that killed more than 9,500 people.
Federal and local officials gathered in the main plaza of North
city and held a moment of silence to remember the victims of the 8.1-magnitude
Mexican TV stations broadcast images of Mexico City buildings still considered
dangerous 15 years later.
also destroyed 400 buildings and weakened 5,700 others.
The government came in for harsh criticism because of its slowness
to the disaster, which struck in the early morning hours of Sept. 19, 1985. In
addition, many of the deaths occurred in poorly constructed government offices,
apartment buildings or hospitals.
Interior Secretary Diodoro Carrasco said the tragedy motivated
the government to
be better prepared for the next big quake, which scientists have warned is
``The population has to be alert and this is the goal of these
systems for natural disasters,'' Carrasco said at the ceremony, also attended by
firefighters and rescue teams.
In the wake of the 1985 quake, Mexican authorities implemented
a seismic alert
system consisting of a series of sensors placed along a seismic gap in the
Pacific Coast state of Guerrero. The system, part of the National Disaster
Prevention Center, could give Mexico City residents as much as 50 seconds
warning prior to a major earthquake, allowing them to seek safer areas -- such as
open spaces outside.
The alert system is set off only by quakes of magnitude 6.5 or
higher, and works
only if an earthquake originates between the Pacific Coast resort towns of
Acapulco and Zihuatanejo. That was not the epicenter of the 1985 quake.
The area was chosen because of logistical reasons and the estimated
of future quakes.
That stretch of the Pacific Coast registered three 7.5-magnitude
between 1899 and 1907, but no major earthquakes have occurred since 1911,
leading scientists to believe another major earthquake might be due soon.
On Tuesday, Mexican television stations broadcast images of Mexico
buildings that are still considered dangerous and uninhabitable 15 years later, but
which have been neither repaired nor demolished.