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Seismic Activity

Eventos Sísmicos

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Volcán de Colima
Living in Mexico

On September 23, 2017 a 6.4 magnitude earthquake occurred in Matias Romero, Oaxaca, just 39 miles from the recently damaged Juchitan, Oaxaca, in the isthus region.

On September 19, 2017 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred at 1:14pm centered 34 miles south of Puebla, Oaxaca. Numerous buildings collapsed in the Puebla area and in Mexico City. There were numerous casualties in both regions.

On September 8, 2017 a 8.1 magnitude earthquake occurred just before midnight off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico, 73 miles south of Tonalá at a depth of 70km. Puerto Escondido residents reported that the earthquake last longer than most. Items generally did not fall off shelves but some reported minor structural damage to homes. Huatulco residents reported a stronger shock with some damage to structures. Tsunami warnings were issued for Zipolite and nearby areas but didn't materialize there. Oaxaca city residents reported strong tremors with damage to buildings. Mexico City experienced minor structural damage and power outages. The Mexican Isthmus suffered heavy damage, notably in the town of Juchitán, Oaxaca, where there were casualties and thousands of homes experienced severe damage.

On August 19, 2006, As reported by the USGS, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake occurred 43 miles NNW of Puerto Escondido, 53 miles SW of Oaxaca City at 12:41 am CDT at a depth of 27 km.

On January 21, 2003, at 8:06 pm a magnitude 7.6 earthquake occurred just off the coast of Colima. There were at least 25 dead and 300 injured. There was extensive damage to buildings in Colima, capital of Colima, and in Manzanillo, Colima, as well as in the state of Jalisco. There were some power outages and interruption of communications. There have been numerous secondary earthquakes up to magnitude 5.8. There was no damage at all in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco.

Popocatepetl, an active volcano east of Mexico City erupted December 18, 2000 (and many other times in recent history). These eruptions do not affect the Pacific Coast of Mexico, but since most flights stop in Mexico City, air passengers may have a chance to view this phenomenon as they arrive or depart the Mexico City airport. Here is an account and some fantastic photos.

The Colima Volcano, considered Mexico's most dangerous active volcano, has had several recent events, including an increase in explosive events on 7/6/99 and two eruptions in November 2000. For updates, see Volcano World. The Volcán de Colima is located in the state of Jalisco near the northern border of the state of Colima, 60 miles northeast of Manzanillo.

On Thursday, 9/30/99, at 11:31 a.m., an earthquake centered 2 miles north of Puerto Escondido, latitude 15.89°, longitude 97.07°, of magnitude 7.4 lasted for 41 seconds. There are 12 reported fatalities in Oaxaca City, Santo Domingo Teojomulco, San Jose del Progreso, Puerto Escondido, Mexico City, and Veracruz state. Many homes and buildings collapsed in Oaxaca City, 75 miles away. There was only minor damage in Huatulco; Puerto Escondido reported 15 buildings damaged, one fatality, and electricity was out. The quake was felt strongly in Mexico City, 310 miles away, and as far south as Guatamala. see this account and other reports from residents and visitors.

Earthquakes are relatively common on the Oaxaca coast, which is near the juncture of three tectonic plates, the American, Caribbean, and the Cocos. The epicenters of more than half of Mexico's earthquakes lie in the region bounded by Puerto Angel, Acapulco, and Oaxaca City, with the center of activity near Pochutla. An earthquake in June or July of 1994 centered near Puerto Angel, measured 5.9 on the Richter scale. The quake was felt as far away as Mexico City and Veracruz. Two deaths were reported in Oaxaca City but there was no reported damage in Puerto Angel. Residents attribute this to the rocky subsurface conditions.

The states of Colima and Jalisco are also subject to earthquake activity. On October 9, 1995 an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 (one of the strongest of the century) occurred, centered in Manzanillo, Colima, 19.06°N 104.21°W. Photos show the resulting tidal wave. A photo shows damaged Hotel Tropical in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco.

On 6/15/99 an earthquake of magnitude 6.7, centered on the Oaxaca/Puebla state line near Tehuacan, Puebla, was felt on the Oaxacan coast. The quake left a large sink hole near the coastal highway between Huatulco and the airport.

On 2/2/98 an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 occurred offshore 35 miles east-northeast of Puerto Angel, Oaxaca. Electrical power was lost and some windows broken. In Huatulco there were cracks in the floors and walls of buildings but no major damage was reported. Huatulco visitors reported that guests evacuated their hotel rooms after the heaviest tremor and slept on the beach and around the pool, and a tourist was injured when she was pushed over a railing during the evacuation. There were several aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 4.2 to 4.8.

On 1/8/97 an earthquake occurred just off the coast of Huatulco, Oaxaca measuring 4.6 magnitude. No damage was reported.

On 10/20/95 a strong earthquake that was centered in the neighboring state of Chiapas was felt in Huatulco and as far away as Mexico City. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake was centered 20 miles west of San Cristobal de las Cases 60 miles below the surface. Buildings were damaged in Chiapas and rockslides blocked some roads. Buildings were shaken in Mexico City. John Williams, who was scuba diving at the time off the coast of Huatulco, reported hearing a loud noise that he at first thought was a large ship passing overhead, but then realized that because of the magnitude it was an earthquake. Account by John Williams.

An earthquake occurred on 10/15/95. Three events were felt and resulted in loss of telephone service in Huatulco.

An earthquake on 9/14/95 centered 90 miles east of Acapulco near the Guerrero/Oaxaca border [16.7°N, 98.5°W] measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale and lasting about a minute destroyed 90 houses and damaged 290 others in the town of Igualapa. There were at least 10 deaths and dozens of injuries. Many injuries were the result of falling roof tiles, since they are not cemented in place. The quake was barely felt in Huatulco where it was reported to have caused items on a tabletop to bounce about 2" high. A warning system gave residents of Mexico City up to 150 seconds of warning before the quake was felt there. Damage there was minor but nerves were shaken as residents recalled the deadly quake which occurred 10 years prior.

John Williams reported a minor earthquake in Puerto Angel, Oaxaca on 7/13/95. A more severe earthquake six years ago caused cracks in the house in which he lives.

The Volcán de Pochutla near Puerto Angel erupted in 1870. An undersea volcano also near Puerto Angel erupted in 1803 and 1875.

Recent Seismic Events in Mexico

The map below shows all events Ml > 3.5 which occurred the past week as registered by the National Seismograph Network and comes to you from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Institute of Geophysics, where details of the events are available. You can also search the USGS database for earthquake information.

Historical Seismic Events in Colima, Jalisco, and Oaxaca

September 16, 1711   big
June 3, 1932  8.2
June 18, 1932  7.8
January 30, 1973  7.5
October 9, 1995  8.0

December 22, 1568   big
August 25, 1611   big
March 25, 1806  big
November 22, 1837  7.7
January 20, 1900  8.2
May 16, 1900  7.8
June 7, 1911  7.9
April 30, 1921  7.8
August 23, 1696   7.5
December 21, 1701   big
March 9, 1845  8.0
May 5, 1854  8.0
July 19, 1882  big
January 29, 1899  8.4
January 14, 1903  8.2
June 17, 1928  8.0
October 9, 1928  7.6
August 23, 1965  7.5
November 29, 1978  7.6
June 22, 1979  7.1
October 24, 1980  7.0

Note Colima's small size relative to
Jalisco and Oaxaca, combined with the
historical earthquake data, suggests a
greater concentration of severe
earthquakes in that state.

see also CENEPRED (Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres) web site.

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The Pacific Coast of Mexico www.tomzap.com Tom Penick:  tom@tomzap.com