A look back at the 1985 Mexico quake that killed thousands

Even though the earthquake was further away, it was deadlier.

ByMEGHAN KENEALLY
September 20, 2017, 2:24 PM

— -- Tuesday's deadly earthquake in Mexico City killed more than 200 people, but the city is no stranger to tragedy.

On the same exact date 32 years ago, a massive earthquake hit western Mexico, badly damaging the bustling city and killing thousands of people.

The Associated Press reported that at least 9,500 people died in that 1985 7.8 magnitude quake, though other estimates are higher. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an American government agency under the Department of Commerce, determined that it was an 8.1 magnitude quake that killed 10,000 people.

Dr. Lucy Jones, the founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and a former scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, told ABC News that Mexico City experienced massive destruction in 1985 even though the city was 250 miles away from where the quake struck.

"The buildings damaged in '85 were all taller than five stories," she said. "You're now seeing buildings that were damaged yesterday that got through the '85 earthquake."

Because of the large distance between the 1985 quake's epicenter and Mexico City, only a certain amount of the quake's energy reached Mexico City, but it was still enough to be deadly.

Pablo Ampuero, a professor of seismology at Caltech University, told ABC News that “a very large earthquake that hits very far away can have the same impact as a small earthquake that hits closer to you.”

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events