Exactly 32 years after a massive earthquake took 10,000 lives in Mexico City, yet another fierce tremor hit the center of the nation on Tuesday, killing more than 200 people but having little effect on energy infrastructure outside of power outages.
Measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, the earthquake resulted in death and destruction in and around the capital and neighboring states, including Morelos, the epicenter.
Rescue workers, most of them volunteers, worked through the night, as authorities in Mexico City confirmed Wednesday that at least 217 people have died in Puebla, Morelos and Guerrero.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera said 44 buildings had collapsed, many of them turned to rubble. Many more homes and offices will have to be inspected as safety inspectors review fissures and other forms of damage caused by the quake.
The quake struck at 1:14 p.m. (Mexico Central Time) on Tuesday, just hours after an earthquake drill. The epicenter was located on the state border between Puebla and Morelos, some 120 kilometers from Mexico City, according to the National Seismological Service.
Buildings in the capital city were evacuated, including the offices of state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) and energy regulator CRE.
Later in the evening, CRE announced on Twitter that it had suspended all reporting obligations, deadlines and other formal procedures for Tuesday and Wednesday, due to the earthquake. The regulator also said that its servers for its electronic reporting system were offline until further notice.
State-owned power company CFE reported that some 4.8 million clients had lost electricity service in Mexico City and the states of Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Tlaxcala. The consumers who lost power amounted to 35% of the utility’s clients in the affected areas, and were mostly concentrated in the federal capital and the surrounding State of Mexico.
“At this time, 40% of Mexico City and 60% of Morelos state are without electricity,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “We have reinforced CFE teams in the field in order to reestablish service as soon as possible.”
By 8 a.m. (Mexico Central Time) on Wednesday, CFE had restored power to 92% of affected households and businesses.
The utility’s power plants in the quake zone did not sustain any damage and were operating normally, the company said in a press release on Tuesday. CFE was working to repair the damaged Yautepec substation in Morelos early Wednesday afternoon, CFE CEO Jaime Hernandez said on Twitter.
As of publication, national pipeline operator Cenagas had not reported any damages to Sistrangas, Mexico’s largest natural gas transport system. On Tuesday, Pemex also said that its gasoline production, storage and distribution infrastructure was unaffected by the earthquake.
As of Tuesday evening, Sempra Energy's Mexican subsidiary -- Infraestructura Energetica Nova, SAB de CV (IEnova), which develops, builds and operates energy infrastructure, reported to NGI that it has seen no damage to its operations.
Analysts at Genscape Inc. said Wednesday morning that border pipe flows appeared to be operating on schedule. “So far there does not yet appear to be a clear impact to U.S. exports to Mexico as a result of yesterday’s earthquake,” Genscape said. “At one point, the state run power company, CFE, reported over 3.8 million customers without power, and safety agencies warned of gas pipeline leaks.”
A quake nearly two weeks ago caused about 100 deaths in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. Mexico City then was all but unscathed, and some experts had assured that the seismic movements had subsided.
Schools in parts of Mexico have been closed in several states until further notice, but businesses were operating as usual Wednesday, including banks and financial markets, subject to checks of buildings by safety inspectors.
The scale of the damage, though serious, is on a much smaller scale than it was 32 years ago. In that devastating quake, entire neighborhoods were flattened. Helicopter surveys now indicate that most of the buildings that crumbled Wednesday did so in isolation.