They had left me in charge of the Mission but Washington didn’t know that. They weren’t evidently hostile but something could have happened to her in such a large crowd. I believe it was 30 or 40,000. On September 19, 1985, at 7:17 A.M., a Richter magnitude 8.1 earthquake occurred on the Pacific coast of Mexico. This was an administrative decision and Nancy Reagan was going to take a million dollar check to Los Pinos [the Presidential palace]. It was growing in population at a tremendous rate, and the economy was booming. Nonetheless, I mean, it came across to the Mexican people that he was someone who was not their friend. We had to worry about the American School, the American Hospital, and other American institutions. Tips to keep in mind for World Mental Health Day; Oct. 5, 2020. It was a Foreign Service Officer who had to load these sacks and take an airplane at night. As Mexico City is situated on an ancient lakebed plateau composed of mostly dirt and sand, the ground is less stable than bedrock, thus leading to major damage. I think I mentioned his mother’s family had settled in California before California became a state. An apartment building destroyed by an earthquake that struck Mexico City in 1985. One is of two American Embassy officials who attempted to save lives of people caught in downed buildings. The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake. I remember doing up the format. Mexico's president was Miguel de la Madrid, champion of a failed "moral renewal" campaign, and the city's mayor was Ramón Aguirre Velázquez, a man close to the president and a candidate to succeed him. The quake ruptured the San Andreas fault to the north and south of the city, for a total of 296 miles, and ...read more, On October 17, 1989, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area, killing 67 people and causing more than $5 billion in damages. That quickly spread from earthquake-related things to environmentally related things, the fact that Mexico City was such a polluted city. What you like fries and coke determine their prices. The phone system failed almost completely shortly thereafter. Country Mexico Location Mexico City Brief Overview of the Disaster On September 19, 1985, at 7:19 a.m., Mexico City was struck by an earthquake that measured 8.1 on the Richter scale and lasted more than a minute and a half. The 2017 Puebla earthquake struck at 13:14 CDT (18:14 UTC) on 19 September 2017 with an estimated magnitude of M w 7.1 and strong shaking for about 20 seconds. It was appropriate to speak publicly about issues relating to our interests, but dangerous to tell Mexicans how to manage their own affairs, at least in public. MEXICO CITY -- Many things changed after the devastating September 19, 1985 earthquake, measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, struck Mexico City. At around 7:19 a.m. on September 19, 1985, Mexico City, one of the world’s largest urban areas, was jolted by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake, one of the strongest to ever hit the area. Mexico City earthquake of 1985. His Spanish was impeccable. Every minute, people came into my office to ask about a myriad of subjects, both personal and professional. Within the next couple hours, we made sure the local Mexican staff was ok. Most of these people interacted with Mexican lower level government officials and with the Mexican population. The Ambassador was to get on a plane that morning in Washington to go to Europe on his home leave. On the other hand, on one of the first days, I called a Congressman in Los Angeles and asked him not to send a plane load of supplies, because they were not things that were needed. The First Lady’s motorcade pulled up and it looked actually very frightening. Any aid that we gave would be only a symbolic gesture, a drop in the bucket. Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. To this day, the Mexicans say it was less than 20,000. Nancy Reagan’s briefing was very brief and not deeply substantive and she mainly spent the flights both to Mexico and California closeted in her state room. That was my view. They would sometimes report his criticisms, but you would sort of lose the train of it before you got done. By comparison, Denver, Colorado, nicknamed the Mile High City, is 5,280 feet above sea level. Ambassador Gavin was taken up in a helicopter the day after the quake to survey the damage in order to get a sense of the assistance that would be needed. It had a magnitude of 8.1, and the number of people killed added up to 10,000 deaths. The effects of the quake were particularly devastating because of the type of ground upon which the city sits. Then we went to the embassy and she gave a speech. In addition, 250,000 people lost their homes, and … Learn how to update your browser. Assistance was just not flowing and not flowing fast enough, and people were without electricity and they were without water and they were without homes, and they began for the first time to organize themselves, in neighborhood groups and community groups, to do something about this. Most of the damage was focused on the historic downtown area of Cuauhtémoc. I remember there was a big deal when we brought down to Mexican City an American company to implode buildings. Mexico City Earthquake, 1985. I really caught hell for that from the staff later because the Department neglected to tell anyone or inform our families. The deaths were so numerous that they had to use the baseball stadium as an outdoor morgue. And that a lot of that probably had to do with corruption, that maybe it was paid for that there should be 50 bags of sand and cement or whatever it was, but 15 bags went in, because it was more expensive to build things to code. To this day, Embassy people remember that event and the talk I gave. We couldn’t allow too much more detail because of the difficulty of transmission and the number of telegrams, and then we couldn’t send them by the regular cable system because it was down. So they would have everything on the front page with about three lines of type, and then every story would continue in a different part of the paper. Some people found it a difficult place to live then, and in certain aspects — traffic, noise, congestion, smog — it was. This is the address to send it to. Of a population of 18 million, an estimated 10,000 people were killed, and 50,000 were injured. It was just awfully difficult to try to read it. The Embassy had ten or twelve other physical facilities around the city. I went to the airport to meet the Chargé d’Affaires, Morris Busby, who was returning from Northern Mexico. She is not going to be able to put back a building or dig out civilians or something like that. The Embassy had a telephone network, in which everyone calls everyone else in a certain order. Mexico City was still the political, geographical, and cultural center of the country. But we did worry that it wouldn’t go right and we’d kill some Mexicans standing and gawking. I remember Dan Rather telling the world that Mexico City was completely destroyed. He got a helicopter and he flew over and counted the number of buildings down, and many of them were apartment buildings. The powerful earthquake killed more than 10,000 and left another 30,000 others injured and as many as a quarter of a million people homeless. Mission Mandate: To airlift aid to Mexico City after a major earthquake. As you know, Mexico City airport is very close to the downtown, and thus very close to much of the damage. The leading newspaper of the day was called Excélsior, and it was truly an awful newspaper. One of the first things that he did, he was very concerned and he was very interested and he wanted to make sure that appropriate assistance came from the United States. On the other position. We got on an Air Force I airplane. To this day I can’t remember a word I said. He was a cousin of one of the leading writers of Mexico, Carlos Fuentes, who he called Charlie Fountain. Even my own sister and aged father in San Francisco weren’t sure of our condition for two days. On the morning of September 19, 1985, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit the western states of Mexico and including Mexico City. That was due to a tremendous effort on part of Embassy people to coordinate the activity, efforts which of course were invisible to the outside…. Its epicenter was about 55 km (34 mi) south of the city of Puebla.The earthquake caused damage in the Mexican states of Puebla and Morelos and in the Greater Mexico City area, including the collapse of … We had the Marines Residence, the Military Cemetery, the Defense Attaché’s Office, our military people at the Mexican Defense University. AID sent many of them because it was in charge of our disaster relief at that time. Usually it was items that were needed, but sometimes Americans rush to clean out their basements and send whatever is available, and then they feel good and take a tax break. Financially, we had already offered the Mexicans a variety of technical assistance from sniffer dogs to special jacks and engineering gear to try to rescue people from collapsed buildings. ©Copyright 1998-2021 Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake was an earthquake that happened in Mexico City on September 19, 1985. Some people said later that I was too calm and didn’t appear very sympathetic. COWAL: Well, they would sometimes mention it, and that would cause problems, or they wouldn’t mention it, and that would cause problems, of course, with the embassy. The Mexican government, thinking that it could handle the situation after the earthquake by themselves, initially refused any foreign aid. Q: How many Americans were killed, do you know? There was a very large earthquake in September of 1985. We probably had 25,000 resident Americans and many, many American tourists. And even when Presidential orders were given, they were sometimes not followed, or could not be followed. He had a tendency shared by almost all politically appointed ambassadors, including [Patrick] Lucey at times, to sometimes speak out on Mexican affairs as if they were presidents of Mexico rather than ambassadors to the country. I told them we would need them in the Embassy, but their personal considerations were clearly more important…. The first thing, the highest priority, was to determine that all of the Embassy people were safe, that all official American personnel were safe. But then they reached the sandy loam of the lake bed underneath the center of Mexico City. The quake was centered off the Pacific coast of Michoacán, more than 200 miles west of Mexico City, the nation’s capital. As for me, I was frequently told that I remained fairly calm the whole time. The oil boom was on. Between Mexico City and the epicenter 250 miles to the southwest lie the Sierra Madre mountains dotted with remote towns. Mexico City is located at an elevation of more than 7,300 feet above sea level. The number of Mexicans who perished is still controversial and probably will never be known for certain. You could see the appreciation of the families of these children as they went to the airport to welcome their children back…. National Security Council’s Staff Director for Latin America from 1985 to 1986. Some of these buildings were ready to fall down and they were dangerous. I had been officially appointed by the DCM when he left, to be in charge. Once there, the earthquake tremors caused the sediment layers to oscillate. So, it may be that people to people relations were actually improved…, Ambassador G. Philip Hughes Economic and Political Counselor. There was no time for an advance visit or anything. Canadian Operation Name: (Mexico 1985) Canadian Operation Dates: 1985/09/19 – 1985/09/26. But then I began to see the destruction from the windows and we began to get reports that parts of the city had been seriously damaged, with many major buildings downed. It did more damage to some of the Embassy’s residences, fortunately, not mine. First Lady Nancy Reagan toured Mexico City with U.S. That took some doing because I couldn’t get through readily. He landed and said to the press that he thought there might be more than 20,000 deaths. The foreign media would always cover these things, and then report it, and then sometimes the Mexican media would be able to report on what the foreign media had presented. The president was saying that they had lost 10,000 people, and Gavin made a public statement that there were 20,000 or more who had died. The next day there were a number of lesser quakes, the strongest of which measured 7.8. Americans are very generous and they immediately began to collect and provide goods to load up airplanes. Kramer, a. September 19, 2008 (The earthquake of 19-Sep-1985) One of the worst natural disasters in the Americas occurred 23 years ago today, when at 7:19 am local time an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 struck in the subduction zone off the west coast of Mexico. Earthquakes are worse in mountains which of vibrate more than flat land. But early that morning, some lines were still open. I was in the Embassy in my office at 7:30 in the morning. I remember the back wall of my secretary’s apartment just fell out into the back yard. We coordinated with the embassy. To get a better idea about the high stakes treatment. I was quickly told that this was probably going to happen so it’s not a question of whether it is desirable or not, it is a question of making it happen. We had to put thousands of telegrams in a huge sack and have them carried to Laredo to be sent out from there. Ambassador Gavin went to see Placido Domingo and his relatives for instance at a building that was destroyed so he could console surviving family members. We also have to remember that there was a major aftershock thirty six hours later, about 7 o’clock at night the next day. So a lot of what we did in USIS, we would also sponsor seminars for journalists and so on. They were busy digging; it was dark. There were American guests at this hotel and one of the officials actually pulled out bodies. He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy starting in March 1998. Tuesday's earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. What was especially needed was machinery to cut through the concrete reinforcing rods, oxygen, the sniffer dogs to search for survivors, tents, heavy machinery to move some of the rubble, lighting systems, and communications gear. Though the epicenter for the 1985 earthquake was over 200 miles away from Mexico City, the disaster nearly flattened the capital. It was still peaceful. I was lucky in that the phones were still working and I called home and found that my family and the house were unharmed. Mexico City Earthquake: September 19, 1985, 1985 Mexico City Earthquake: Slow Government Response. Even if it had not been destroyed, it didn’t have much equipment and expertise. Of course, he wasn’t there that first night, and was reporting the disaster based on pictures from a few neighborhoods. That was maybe for the first time really since the Aztecs, a questioning of the central authority and of the power structure, by individuals and by groups of nongovernmental organizations, civil society, that really began to emerge. Find a certified presentation designer for your next project on Prezi This detailed timeline of Mexican history explores such themes as the ...read more, A country rich in history, tradition and culture, Mexico is made up of 31 states and one federal district. During this second period of mine in Mexico, 1985-1986, Mexico City was still peaceful. and when it stopped I decided to leave the building, have a cup of coffee for twenty minutes, and then go back to work. Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. I didn’t think that was very strange. In the aftermath of the earthquake, about 3,500 buildings had collapsed or were seriously damaged. They needed that much space to lay out the corpses. What could one do to stop the quakes? This is a city and urban area of 20 million people in the valley, of which seven or eight million people were directly affected by the loss of services; the loss of electricity, water, sewage facilities, all of which began to cause disease problems. The result: The earthquake was amplified in strength. We were trying to make them more professional, but they would editorialize right through that Gavin might have said there were 20,000 dead, but that couldn’t be the case because of whatever or whatever. Western Mexico is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes with the Pacific plate and Cocos plate moving against the North American plate actively. (You can also read Ambassador Prudence Bushnell’s experience with “disaster tourists” after the Embassy Nairobi bombing. Blog. And, secondly, he observed that the pattern of destruction was very uneven, so while it was worse in some sections of the city than others, it was not uniform. Most of Alaska’s mainland felt the magnitude 9.2 earthquake, which wobbled Seattle’s Space Needle some 1,200 miles ...read more, Mexico City, Mexico’s largest city and the most populous metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere, is also known as Distrito Federal, or the federal district. They pulled a few survivors out of the rubble, but mostly these buildings just came right down. Stanley Zuckerman was a Counselor for Public Affairs for Mexico City from 1978 to 1983; he was interviewed by Kennedy beginning July 2004. But, people said I calmly addressed the group, telling them what had happened as best we could determine. But the Mexican people recognized how much the Americans helped by sending assistance and helping in the reconstruction. However, much of the damage was in Mexico City, which was constructed on an ancient lake bed whose soft sediments amplify seismic waves. …The only untoward thing was the earthquake. It was my job. On this day in 1985, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake rocked Mexico City and its surrounding environs at 9:17 a.m. EDT (7:17 a.m. local time). Almost always no smoke, no dust, and every brick falls right where it’s supposed to. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. As the National Security Council’s Staff Director for Latin America from 1985 to 1986, Ambassador G. Philip Hughes was involved in planning First Lady Nancy Reagan’s visit to Mexico City, which he questioned as being ill-timed; he was interviewed by Kennedy beginning August 1997. Oct. 8, 2020. Gavin felt that sometimes you had to deal publicly with them…. It was not totally closed. You had one sentence. On September 19, 1985, the Mexico City area was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed at least 9,500 people. Soup kitchens were set up by the people to keep the diggers working. It turned out I was in charge of the Embassy. 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