Disregard for the earthquake early warning system?

If prevention is our best weapon against earthquakes, a disruption in the early warning system should also be considered so millions of people are not left unprotected
Earthquake warning system alarm - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Despite technological and scientific progress in the last decades, earthquakes remain unpredictable. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide live in fear that, at any given moment, this force of nature can disrupt their lives.

In Mexico, several areas are all too aware of the devastating impact of an earthquake. Particularly Mexico City, which has suffered, by fateful coincidence, two major earthquakes on the same day, 32 years apart.

After the earthquake on September 19, 1985, an earthquake early warning system network was installed. This is so far our best prevention measure. The sensors installed on the coasts of Michoacán, Guerrero, and Oaxaca can give the population of the central states a little over a minute's warning before an earthquake magnitude 5 or more hits.

In Mexico City, this early warning networked is linked to the surveillance system and the alarm goes off almost on every block. Had a similar system been in place in 1985, many more lives would have been saved.

The tragedies which have befallen us after an earthquake have taught us valuable lessons and have changed our behavior. Earthquake drills are part of every-day life at offices, schools, and factories. Construction standards have been updated to meet the risk requirements needed to build in a city with mostly marshy subsoil.

Right now, the early warning system installed in Oaxaca is damaged, putting at risk millions of people. Mexico City's Mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera, said that the earthquake warning stations in this state are not broadcasting signals to Mexico City.

The Center for Seismic Instrumentation and Registry – in charge of the early warning network – announced several towers have fallen down to due bad weather, affecting 14 sensors. The Center added they have no resources to fix them but that repairing the towers will still take 15 days. The Center claims the Oaxaca Government owes almost MXN$40 million (roughly USD$2.1 million) for the operation of the network.

If prevention is our best weapon against earthquakes, preventing an interruption in the operation of the towers would help us solve the problem in a matter of hours, not days. This way, millions of people would not be left unprotected at the same time.

In a matter of saving lives, no resource is ever poorly spent. There are many pressing matters but the earthquake early warning system has to be one of them. The economic obligations of governments shouldn't be forfeited.


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