A powerful earthquake struck western Mexico on Monday, prompting many to fear that the September 19 date could be a harbinger of disaster.
The 7.6 magnitude quake killed two people in building collapses and caused damage to more than 200 buildings in Colima state on the Pacific coast.
But is there a trend, as some have suggested?
Some observers point out that similarly powerful earthquakes have hit Mexico on this date before, in 1985 and 2017. They also say it’s too scary to be a coincidence, with September 19 apparently a cursed day for Mexico. .
“It’s that date, there’s something about the 19th,” said Ernesto Lanzetta, a business owner in Mexico City’s Cuauhtémoc borough. The gardians. “The 19th is a day to fear.”
The last two earthquakes are believed to have occurred just minutes after the earthquake memorial drill honoring those lost in the 1985 disaster. All three earthquakes are believed to have occurred around the same time in early afternoon.
Powerful earthquakes have indeed struck Mexico on September 19 of these three years: an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 on September 19, 1985; a magnitude of 7.1 in 2017; and now this week’s earthquake.
In 2017, 370 people were killed, 228 of whom lived in Mexico City and 6,000 were injured. In 1985, the earthquake killed around 5,000 people, injured around 30,000 and left 100,000 homeless.
This coincidence is indeed surprising: it had only a 0.00075% chance of occurring, an expert told Bloomberg. Others have speculated that the probability could be as low as 0.00000024%.
But this does not justify superstitious or paranormal explanations or the identification of alleged patterns.
Earthquakes of these magnitudes or greater are relatively common in Mexico. The country is regularly affected by seismic activity that stems from the movement of the North American plate against the Cocos and Pacific plates, making it an extremely seismically active region.
Over the past 10 years, Mexico has experienced eight earthquakes greater than magnitude 7.0, many of which occurred in June, February, April and March. In fact, since 1900, only eight Mexican earthquakes have occurred in September.
The three earthquakes of September 19 did not occur at the same time of day. This week’s earthquake struck at 1:05 p.m. local time. In 2017, it was 1:14 p.m. local time. The 1985 earthquake occurred at 7:17 a.m. local time.
With constant seismic activity all over the planet, coincidences are inevitable. For example, an earthquake in Liechtenstein…not usually a hub of seismic activity – occurred during a parliamentary session on earthquake insurance.
Despite recent and significant advances in seismology, accurate prediction of earthquakes is still beyond the reach of scientists.
The US Geological Survey website states: “Neither the USGS nor any other scientist has ever predicted a major earthquake. We don’t know how, and we don’t expect to know anytime in the foreseeable future.
“USGS scientists can only calculate the probability of a large earthquake occurring (shown on our hazard map) in a specific area over a certain number of years.”