Mexico City’s Earthquake a Warning for U.S.
Last Tuesday’s earthquake in Mexico, which killed over 230 people, was so deadly because of it’s location, rather than the size or voracity of the quake itself. Just a couple of weeks earlier, another, significantly larger quake, struck much farther south in Mexico. Even though the quake was larger in magnitude, the death toll was much smaller at 96.
Mexico City is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and it sits atop three clashing tectonic plates, which means lots of seismic activity. But even this isn’t the biggest problem for the region.
The biggest problem is that the city is built on soft soil that was once the bottom of a deep lake. Seismic waves from an earthquake slow down and spread out when they travel through this type of soil. This magnifies the destructive effects of the earthquake. Seismologists and geophysicists often describe the city as being built on pudding or jello; the whole city just shakes around like a bowl of jello.
The problem isn’t unique to Mexico City either. Los Angeles, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area also have soft soils that can amplify seismic waves, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
How much risk is acceptable to you? Would you be comfortable living in one of these areas despite what we’ve seen in Mexico City?