Technology in Mexico is helping save lives during an earthquake

World Today

At the Davos meeting in Switzerland, world leaders are looking at the role technology plays in disaster readiness. Mexico has a tech-driven system that dates back to the 1990s and is still helping to save lives when powerful earthquakes hit the region.

CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports.

In September 2017, a devastating 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit the isthmus of Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca. It killed scores of people in the town of Juchitán and destroyed a number of buildings.   

Powerful shockwaves quickly traveled more than 700 kilometers northwest to Mexico City. Then a Seismic Alert System sounded in time for frightened residents to exit swaying buildings.

Mexico finished building the world’s first seismic alert system in the mid-1990s. At the time, it was the only one of its kind. 

The system has 97 sensors which are used to gauge the earth’s movement. If a potentially deadly quake hits, a signal is sent via radio towers to Mexico City.

“Our job is to mitigate the damages, reduce the possible number of deaths by giving people advanced warnings in time to flee for safety in case of a major seismic event,” said Marco Antonio Galván, Seismic Alert System Field Engineer.

This map of the Seismic Alert’s central control center shows the epicenter of all earthquakes large and small. Juan Manuel Espinosa, who designed the system in 1986, has been its only director. 

“These instruments measure and register all earthquakes. As part of the process, an estimate of each quake’s severity is taken and if it’s deemed to be very big, the alert is sounded,” Juan Manuel Espinosa, director of Mexico Seismic Alert System said.

Espinosa says Mexico’s alert system could not save the capital when the deadly quake struck in 2017. The epicenter was too close and the shockwaves hit Mexico City within seconds. 

But residents of the capital are glad to know it remains on constant alert for the next time another big earthquake comes.