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Past lessons help Mexico stand test of strong quake: official

03-23-2012 13:06 BJT

MEXICO CITY, March 22 (Xinhua) -- The bitter lessons learnt from the 1985 earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in the Mexican history, have helped the country withstand another major quake with no major casualties reported, a government official has said.

A 7.4-magnitude quake rattled central and southern Mexico on Tuesday, killing two people and injuring eleven others. It was the most powerful quake since 1985 when a massive quake left huge destruction and claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

The lessons drawn from that tragedy on how to respond to a major temblor have helped minimize the damage from Tuesday's quake, Elias Miguel Moreno, Mexico City's director of civil protection, told Xinhua.

"Prevention contributes to the fact that there were no victims," Moreno said, listing precautionary measures, such as earthquake drills and more stringent building standards, taken to bolster the city's ability to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters.

For a city inhabited by 20 million people, earthquakes are regarded as the biggest public hazard. The government has made a point of cultivating public earthquake awareness over the last three decades, Moreno said.

"We spend 70 percent of the money on advertising campaigns and disaster prevention work," he said, referring to the annual budget of 80 million U.S. dollars allocated to his department.

Moreno said the National Civil Protection System, developed and delivered after the 1985 earthquake, has played an important role in informing the public of what to do before, during and after a natural disaster.

When a quake strikes, keeping calm is very important, he said, adding that such a response can only be trained through evacuation drills.

"In Mexico City, it is recommended that public buildings hold at least 3 or 4 drills every year, in addition to a large simulation carried out by the government," he added.

Meanwhile, buildings are much more quake-resistant than they were in 1985 as higher construction standards were introduced thereafter, he said.

The amended construction law stipulates that buildings must withstand 8.5-magnitude earthquakes, up from previously required magnitude 7.5, the official said.

Besides, the Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico recently designed a risk map, pinpointing the areas most vulnerable to earthquakes.

"Based on this, we will give construction permission and even recommend what type of materials should be used," he said.

For buildings constructed before 1985, the Civil Protection System puts them on a special watch list, periodically reviewing their resistance status, he added.

The National Seismological Service operates a wide net of 36 stations that control 60 seismic alert sensors used to track the earth movement and transmit data back to the seismological center.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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