Another one checked off the list of dangerous things that could happen in Mexico, that have happened in Mexico: today I survived an earthquake – a temblor. Okay, I may be being slightly dramatic (completely out of character, I know), but it was certainly an experience. And isn’t the word temblor much more exciting than earthquake?!
At first I thought my chair was wobbling, then I felt very dizzy as though I was going to faint. Then I became aware that it wasn’t actually me, but the whole room swaying. Well, more accurately, the whole region, but I didn’t realise that at the time. The weirdest thing was its silence and the seemingly very slow realisation of what was happening, which in reality must have just been moments. It felt like a very strange kind of dream or time-lapse, until confusion turned into action. I was in my classroom at the time, and luckily the children had already packed up all their things because they were ready to go outside for break, so leaving was a relatively quick and stress-free process. It was much like a fire drill in the UK, with all of the children lining up in an open space across the road outside the school while each teacher counted their sprogs.
We waited there for a short time, presumably to be sure that a second tremor wasn’t about to happen, and then the school day resumed as normal. Everybody felt queasy afterwards, and I was a little bit in shock to be honest. I’m told that these sort of earthquakes happen here about once a year, but I’d never felt anything like that on land before, and as the reality sunk in of how far it had come from and how deep in the earth it had been, I did feel a big sense of relief that it wasn’t any worse.
It had measured 6.4 on the Richter Scale, classified as ‘strong’. According to the US Geological Survey, its epicentre was 9 miles north of Tecpan de Galeana in Guerrero, the state which borders Puebla to the west. It lies on the section of the Pacific Coast known as the Guerrero Seismic Gap – a 125 mile stretch where tectonic plates meet and have been locked, creating a huge amount of energy to be stored. The USGS estimates that it’s enough energy to cause an earthquake potentially reaching 8.4. In 1985 a ‘quake measuring 8.1 killed approximately 10,000 people and devastated parts of Mexico City, so it’s no surprise that people got in a bit of a tiz today, especially as aftershocks are unpredictable and often cause considerable damage where structures have been weakened by the initial shock. My naïvité probably served me well in this situation.
Living in Mexico is nothing if not eventful. Temblor: done. And one is quite enough for this lifetime.