Is Sept. 19 cursed in Mexico? There have now been three major earthquakes that day

A powerful earthquake rocked western and central Mexico on Monday – the anniversary of tremors that killed thousands in 1985 and hundreds in 2017.

Tens of thousands of frightened people filled the streets of the capital and elsewhere as the ground began to shake at 1.05pm.

For an earthquake that the US Geological Survey said was a magnitude of 7.6 – Mexico’s National Seismological Service put it at 7.7 – damage was surprisingly limited, with just one fatality reported .

That’s likely because the epicenter is a sparsely populated region 250 miles southwest of Mexico City in western Michoacán state at a depth of 9.4 miles. The tremor was felt in 12 Mexican states, officials said.

It struck 46 minutes after an earthquake alarm sounded in Mexico City – a drill city officials now carry out every September. 19.

It is a date that has achieved prodigious status in Mexico.

The 1985 earthquake that day measured 8.1 and killed more than 10,000 people as hundreds of buildings collapsed. The death toll from the 7.1 earthquake in 2017 exceeded 360.

“I can’t believe this happened again on Sept. 1. 19!” said María Refugio Valdés, 55, a stay-at-home mom in Mexico City. “This time, first I was scared, then I started crying. In 1985, I lost several members of my family.

“Thank God we didn’t lose any in 2017, and none this time. But it doesn’t seem possible! The same date.

Many others wondered if the date was cursed.

“It’s surreal how we live in this country with these earthquakes,” said Lourdes Trejo, 46, a nurse in Mexico City. “Maybe it’s a message: we shouldn’t do anything on Sept. 1. 19!”

The timing was a major talking point as people left their homes and gathered in the streets for protection.

“I don’t understand – why Sept. 19 again? asked Mario Solís Flores, 39, a street vendor from the capital. “What’s going on? September 19? It’s something you can hardly believe.

On Monday morning before the earthquake, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador oversaw a ceremony in downtown Mexico City to lower a flag at half-mast for victims of the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes.

Several commemorations were still taking place at the start of the earthquake, including a memorial mass at the former site of the Rébsamen school, where 19 children and seven adults died in 2017.. The school has become an iconic site of tragedy and a symbol of corruption in building practices and inspections in the capital.

The school principal was sent to prison after being found guilty of manslaughter in connection with faulty construction of the school.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico said the occurrence of three earthquakes above magnitude 7.0 was strictly an oddity, with no broader significance. “There is no scientific reason for” the coincidental timing, the university’s seismological division said on Twitter.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, more than 200 aftershocks had been recorded.

The only reported death was a person hit by debris at a mall in the Pacific Coast town of Manzanillo, according to a tweet from López Obrador. Footage from Manzanillo and elsewhere in Colima state showed damage to roofs, bridges and other structures.

In the neighboring state of Michoacán, authorities reported that more than 20 hospitals and clinics were among the many damaged buildings.

Mexican authorities said they had not issued a tsunami warning, but tidal variations were expected.

Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, reported no major damage in the capital, although there were scattered power outages. Faulty traffic lights caused traffic jams on a number of streets and delays were reported on the city’s subway system.

In the tree-lined Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, residents gathered outside their buildings waiting for the tremors to stop.

Paul Moch, 34, and his girlfriend, Jimena David, 31, had grabbed their 5-year-old dog, Senshi, and left their second floor apartment with a black backpack full of earthquake supplies: a flashlight , face masks, extra dog leash, blanket and first aid kit.

“It was ugly,” Much said. “What I’ve learned from the past is that you don’t know when the peak will hit.”

Beside him, Rosario Guerrero, visiting Mexico City from Cuernavaca, carried a small white dog. Guerrero, 68, hugged a quietly crying woman.

“Just cry,” Guerrero told the frightened woman. “Crying to get rid of the tension.”

McDonnell is a staff writer and Sánchez a special correspondent. Writer Leila Miller and special correspondent Liliana Nieto del Río contributed to this report.