A Powerful Earthquake Hit Mexico And The Videos Are Terrifying

by Hannah Golden
Alfredo Estrella / Getty Images

Just before midnight on Thursday, Sept. 7, local time in Mexico, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Pacific Coast near the southwestern state of Chiapas, and the videos show how powerful the earthquake was in Mexico. It is said to be the strongest earthquake the country has experienced in a century, according to President Enrique Peña Nieto. As of Friday morning, the New York Times had reported the death toll was at 32.

Users on social media shared a flurry of photos and videos documenting the damage and movement during the night's activity, showing furniture wobbling and street lamps quivering as the tremor unfolded. The earthquake was apparently felt by some 50 million people from Mexico City to Guatemala City, with Chiapas and the neighboring state of Oaxaca hit the hardest. Somewhere between 1 million and 2 million homes appeared to have been without power, according to varying reports. The majority of these had power restored, though.

Thursday's earthquake registered an 8.1 on the Richter scale. It originated about 75 miles off the coast, spurring the government to issue a tsunami warning. Thankfully, the waves were recorded at less than four feet, according to the Times. An updated threat report released by the National Weather Service's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showed that small tsunamis could reach as far as New Zealand, with a host of locales included in the zone.

The force of the quake was clear from numerous videos by users. But the worst damage extended far beyond the images, with a hospital collapsing in one region and a report of people being trapped in a collapsed hotel, according to CNN. A Facebook Safety Check was activated for the earthquake.

According to the Times, Pamela Terán, reportedly a city councilor in Oaxaca, said in a video posted to Facebook,

Please, we urgently need as much help as you can send ... We need hands and manpower to try and dig out the people that we know are buried under the rubble.

President Nieto said that assessing the damage could take days, but that the population was safe in general, having avoided the kind of mind-boggling casualties earthquakes can spur.

One video showed the Angel of Independence monument swaying heavily during the quake.

One video shows flashing lights across the sky as transformers blow up.

What?!? That's a thing that happens?

Another video below shows the walls of homes shaking violently.

Remember those IKEA warnings to secure your wardrobe to the wall and you were like, "Nah, we're fine, that'll never be necessary"? It's necessary.

The Times reports that a piece of the earth's crust, called the Cocos Plate, had been sliding underneath another tectonic plate.

This process is called subduction. According to UNAVCO, a non-profit, university-governed group that tracks geological data, showed that this plate was moving at a rate of over 3 inches per year, building up pressure and tension.

One of the dangers of earthquakes that originate in the ocean is the possibility of causing a tsunami. When tectonic plates under water shift, the water gets suddenly displaced, sending a wave outward from the epicenter. This was the case when an earthquake off the coast of Japan in 2011 killed more than 18,000, as well as in 2004 when a tremor in the Indian Ocean prompted a wave that took the lives of 230,000. Both of these fatal disasters were spawned by earthquakes of 9 and 9.1 magnitudes.

The government appeared to be most concerned about aftershocks, which were registered at high magnitudes.

One witness told CNN that they felt five aftershocks. These smaller tremors following the main shock of an earthquake can continue for days, weeks, or months, according to the U.S. Geographical Survey.

The USGS map, which keeps a constant record with the most recent earthquakes, showed about a dozen tremors occurring off the coast of Chiapas in the last several hours.

This quake was stronger than the devastating 8.1 earthquake in Mexico in 1985, which lingers in the memory of many of the country's adults. The '85 quake caused 10,000 deaths and 30,000 injuries, and displaced many. Parts of Mexico are still assessing the damage, but overall, it appears to be less severe than many had feared.