This year has been a weird one, full of new experiences- but one I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly unprepared for was to survive an earthquake in Mexico City.
I mean I should have been. September is earthquake season in Mexico and a friend of mine had recanted this experience of the earthquake siren going off when he was in Mexico City and what to do etc. I remember thinking I should probably remember that sound.
But I was staying in a neighbourhood that had sirens blaring all the time and after living in the centre of Madrid and staying in NYC/London a lot – I’ve learned to block out sirens.
But that night the noise was building outside yet it was the door buzzer going late at night that first alerted me to the fact something was happening. I heard the buzzer and then the sirens outside and then a big freaking bang and thought ‘oh shit’.
Then the whole apartment started shaking. I jumped out of bed and tried to remember what I was supposed to do in the event of an earthquake. What had Trevor from Nomadic Backpacker told me again? Whatever it was I was pretty sure it wasn’t stay in an 8th story flat where all the glass doors to the balcony had poured open and refused to shut while the rain lashed in. I could barely stay on my feet.
I thought I’d put a bra on and head outside. Turns out trying to do that is tricky when you can’t stand up properly. It was pretty incredible to witness the way the place swayed so viciously, I momentarily thought about capturing a pic or video for posterity but realised that was a dickish thing to do and instead I grabbed a bottle of water, cigarettes, threw on a jumper and put my toes in my trainers and hobbled down the 8 flights of stairs while the building rocked.
I got out onto the street and saw everyone was lined up in the middle of the road. I joined them. I was cold and soaking wet within minutes.
Should I let anyone know I’m okay. Well it’s 2/3am in the UK/Europe, so I thought better of it.
I was totally fine but I felt a wave of sadness as it felt weird to be on the other side of the world and live through this alone.
But as ever I’m not really alone anywhere. Trevor’s girlfriend Ms CDMX called me within a few minutes, and checked I was okay. Trevor offered to come over I said I was fine.
After a fashion, with the rain still pouring – I’d seen the residents of my building start to shelter under the garage of the building. I head a little closer to take a look, still not sure I wanted to be under concrete roof of a place I’d seen shake so violently for a good minute or so just an hour before.
I was told off for smoking near the building. It turns out you really shouldn’t smoke close to buildings after an earthquake in case there has been burst gas pipes.
Eventually it was safe to go back upstairs. Walking up those 8 flights was harder than walking down even without the building shaking.
There were a couple of aftershocks but nothing too crazy.
I chatted to my auntie in the Philippines for a bit until I felt sleepy.
I slept in my waterproof running coat and joggers that night in case I needed to make another quick exit.
I also spied a safe spot in the flat to take shelter in case I missed the alarm again. Apparently once the siren sounds you have 3 minutes to get out. If the place is already shaking you should find a safe spot and stay put – away from glass doors or windows (hard in a studio) not under a bed, but a sturdy bit of furniture. The table seemed like a good bet.
My Airbnb landlord also very sweetly checked in on me, ‘that was a big one’, she said and shared her number in case I needed help. ‘The building is pretty safe’ she said. Somewhat unreassuringly.
A few other bits of advice did more to freak me out than calm me down like Trevor’s ‘don’t worry about shaking side to side it’s the up and down you need to worry about that means the building is about to collapse’. Or the super smart but also frightening ‘have dog biscuits in your pocket, so if you’re in the rubble the rescue dogs will find you easier!’.
So do I need to be worried about another earthquake while I’m here? There’s no way of knowing, apparently there is no advance notice beyond the 3 minute sirens that start at 5.5 quake and above – this one was a 7.1 that hit in Acapulco 200+ miles away and was still fierce here. But I’ve never been more excited to head to NYC, that was enough adventure for one trip in Mexico.