May 24, 2005, 10:23 AM
Post #22 of 23
Youíre right Gary, I completely forgot about the 1985 earthquake. My mother-in-laws house was destroyed by it. It delayed my marriage to my wife by most of a year. We were watching TV in Anchorage when the first news of the earthquake was shown. The pictures on the news were of areas about one block from her home in Mexico City.
Re: [gpk] I don't think anyone mentioned earthquakes
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She immediately wanted to go home to see how her family was. The news reports said that the Mexico City airport had been closed and no one was being allowed to enter the city. I couldnít dissuade her. She immediately flew to Seattle to join her brother, they were both going home to see if their family survived. Only then did they find out that they couldnít get any kind of transportation to Mexico City.
It took a few weeks for her Mother to get word to an Uncle in Los Angeles that they were all OK, and had rented a house in the southern part of the city temporarily. Telephone service was seriously disrupted. The Uncle called her brother to tell them the good news. My wife returned to Anchorage, and we were married a little later than we had first planned.
We made a trip to Mexico in December, 1986 so I could meet the rest of her family. It was almost a year and a half after the earthquake had occurred. Temporary shelters had been erected in most of the parks in the city, they were full of refugees. The city was pretty much overwhelmed trying to rebuild infrastructure, refugee shelters, and clear the rubble, there just wasnít enough resources to do it all at once.
There were collapsed buildings all over the city, including several large luxury hotels. There had been casualties in virtually all of them, many still contained un-recovered bodies. There was one collapsed building a couple of blocks from the familyís destroyed home. The rubble was about as high as a two story building. It had been a 20 story medical clinic. The bodies of approximately 40 people were still under the rubble, mostly nurses.
Building codes are virtually un-enforced in Mexico. I did see several high rise buildings at that time that had the outer walls removed, and the main structural columns were being re-enforced. I donít know how effective those re-enforcements would be. They were wrapping the existing concrete columns with reinforcing steel, and pouring more concrete to make the columns larger. There had been a lot of progress in the development of chemical bonding agents in recent years, but it seemed to me to be risky to expect effective bonding of a second layer of concrete on a structural component.
I was born and spent the first half of my life in California, which has a lot of earthquakes. I then spent the last half of my life in Alaska, which is the most seismically active state in The US. I worked in the construction industry, and I am very familiar with building earthquake resistant structures.
Contrary to popular belief, a flexible structure is most likely to survive an earthquake, a rigid structure, no matter how strong, is most likely to collapse. The common practice of building masonry structures in Mexico is not conducive to their surviving a major quake. I donít have as much confidence in them as I do in a structure with a slightly flexible steel or wood frame.
Incidentally, if an earthquake lasts for one minute, itís time to get the hell out of the building. Thatís when things start to fall down. If a person is unduly afraid of earthquakes, Mexico City would not be a good choice as a retirement haven.
By a co-incidence, my Suegro was talking about the day of the earthquake last night. She told about how all her neighbors gathered on the sidewalk in front of their collapsed homes. One lady had carried a bag with cans of tuna fish out of her house for some reason. She told everybody, ďDonít worry, we will all have something to eatĒ.
My Suegra said she had a bag of bolillos in her house, but it would be too dangerous to go up to the second floor o get them. Then our niece, who was twelve years old at the time said ď I donít weigh as much as you, I can go get themĒ She not only brought the bolillos down, but all the sodas, and canned goods in the house. Other neighbors ventured in to their houses to salvage what food they could.
My Suegra said soon all the neighbors were sitting on the sidewalk, having a virtual picnic in the midst of the disaster all around them. When times get tough, good people stick together.
"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved" - Victor Hugo