Mexico City September 1985


300 kilometres SW of Mexico City

Magnitude & Depth

8.1M & 28.0 kilometers

Team Deployment

2 IRC members as part of an AUI (Action d’Urgence Internationale) team of 8

The teams’ letter of authority in Spanish

View over city. Not all of the buildings show damage. This was the general pattern of damage in a city or town, not total destruction, from this type of earthquake.

Hotel Carlo. The first building searched by IRC. The foundations have been damaged, which caused the building to slant to the rear. It has also suffered pan caking at its central floors.

A clothing warehouse with damage to the upper floors

A clothing factory. It was 13 storeys high. The last person was located on the 7th day after the collapse and into the 8th day before she was rescued.

The SOND in use by AUI team members


The Institution “INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY ACTION” based in the cities of London and Paris is sending some people to assist the victims of earthquakes that occurred in Mexico City in September 1985.

Below we give the names of this group:

– Harry Leefe
– Michael White
– Jeffrey Milne
– Dominique Serbois
– Gaston Jeanbois
– Jean Chantal

The people, who are mostly doctors and fire-fighters, are moving to Mexico with a team, both for medical work and for rescue work, and therefore, we urge the authorities to give them the necessary help to aid the best discharge of their work.


Mexico City September 1985

A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck Mexico City on the early morning of 19 September 1985 at around 7:19 am (CST) – causing the deaths of at least 10,000 people and serious damage to the Greater Mexico City Area. The magnitude 8.1 earthquake lasted a full two minutes. It was followed by a 7.5 earthquake 36 hours later.


Mexico City Earthquake 19 September 1985

The epicentre of the earthquake was at the border between the states of Michoacán and Guerrero more than 300 kilometres away, yet Mexico City suffered the most damage.

The earthquake which lasted for about three to four minutes made buildings of 6-15 stories in height fall apart in an instant.

  • Electricity lines were destroyed for days as well as communications.
  • The Central Communications Centre building collapsed isolating Mexico City from the immediate help and assistance of neighbouring countries.
  • Water and the sewage systems were seriously damaged, thus, contaminating the water supply in the city.
  • About a hundred thousand housing units were destroyed as well as government buildings, schools and other infrastructure.
  • Three of the largest hospitals in the city collapsed burying some 1,200 people alive. The loss of hospitals crippled the city’s ability to help injured victims.

An aftershock of 7.5 magnitude was felt 36 hours later causing widespread panic.

The earthquake was felt as far north as Houston, Texas, 745 miles (1,200 km) away, and in Guatemala City 621 miles (1,000 km) to the south.

The rescue operation continued to find survivors up to a week later. Among the most remarkable rescues was that of 58 newborn babies, pulled alive from the wreckage of a maternity ward three days after the earthquake struck.


The top floors of this eight-story building collapsed because it was pounding against the next building.
Collapsed General Hospital
Mexico City September 1985

More than 10,000 people were killed, 30,000 were injured, and large parts of the city were destroyed.

Searching the rubble
The 15 storey Nuevo Leon Building Collapsed
Urbana Suarez Apartment Complex completely collapsed.


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