Destruction of the Pino Suarez Apartment Complex in Mexico City after the earthquake on September 19, 1985.
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DB: The official word from the Mexican government is that they learned a great deal from the big earthquake in 1985 and this time they were ready and out there doing what they needed to do. That is a bit of a different spin.
Nevertheless, the situation is tenuous and at a certain point there is going to have to be a major evaluation of thousands of buildings in the city. This is a huge problem that doesn't appear to be acknowledged by the Mexican government.
MG: There have been laws and regulations passed since 1985. But there is a lot of corruption in city government and federal government; kickbacks are paid and buildings are not built in the way they are supposed to be. After a school collapsed close to here, you could see that parts of the building had been constructed of Styrofoam!
Another change that has taken place since the 1985 quake is the earthquake alert system. In the quake that occurred two weeks ago, the alarms went off and many were able to evacuate their buildings. But there is definitely still a lot of progress to be made. These older buildings cannot withstand a 7.0 earthquake or above.
DB: You walked around the streets of Mexico City after the quake hit. What are some of the images that stay with you?
MG: I walked down one of the busiest thoroughfares of the city and saw tens of thousands of people completely filling the street. I saw many people directing traffic. The city was in absolute chaos but people really stood up to prevent things from getting too insane.
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