The 2017 Chiapas Earthquake

Posted by Karl Lundgren on

Picture a serene and moonlit midnight in the coastal town of Pijijiapan, nestled along the Pacific coast of Mexico's vibrant Chiapas state. The tranquility of the night is interrupted only by the gentle murmur of the ocean waves as they kiss the shore, and the occasional rustle of palm fronds in the cool breeze. Most residents are tucked warmly in their beds, immersed in peaceful slumber.

However, as the clock inches closer to midnight, an eerie hush blankets the town, and the world seems to hold its breath. Suddenly, a deep, ominous rumble rises from the earth itself, sending shockwaves through the darkened streets. The very ground beneath Pijijiapan begins to convulse, growing more violent with each passing second. In the inky blackness of night, chaos descends upon this once-peaceful town.

Homes sway ominously, their foundations groaning under the relentless assault. Families, torn from their dreams, scramble desperately into the streets, their faces etched with terror, their voices a cacophony of cries for help and safety.

This was the harrowing reality that unfolded on the fateful night of September 7, 2017, as the clock neared the stroke of midnight. The 2017 Chiapas earthquake, with a devastating magnitude of 8.2, struck with ruthless power, transforming the tranquil midnight into a nightmare. Yet, amid this cataclysmic event, the indomitable spirit of the Chiapas community emerged, illuminating a path toward recovery, resilience, and renewal. In this article, we delve into the heart-wrenching yet profoundly inspiring tale of the 2017 Chiapas earthquake and the extraordinary human strength that surfaced in its wake.

2017 Chiapas Earthquake

On September 7, 2017, a powerful earthquake shook the southern region of Mexico, particularly devastating the state of Chiapas. This seismic event, with a magnitude of 8.2 on the Richter scale, left a lasting impact on the communities and people of Chiapas. In this blog article, we will delve into the details of the 2017 Chiapas earthquake, its consequences, and the remarkable resilience demonstrated by the local population in its aftermath.

The Earthquake's Origins

The 2017 Chiapas earthquake had its origins in the subduction zone where the Cocos Plate dives beneath the North American Plate. This tectonic boundary is known for generating intense seismic activity. The earthquake struck at a depth of approximately 69 kilometers (43 miles) below the Earth's surface, making it a deep-seated quake.

Impact and Damage

The earthquake's epicenter was off the Pacific coast of Chiapas, near the town of Pijijiapan. The violent shaking reverberated throughout the region, reaching as far as Mexico City and Guatemala. While Mexico City experienced tremors, the most severe devastation occurred in Chiapas and neighboring Oaxaca.

  1. Loss of Life: Tragically, the earthquake claimed the lives of at least 98 people and injured hundreds more. The loss of human lives and the resulting emotional trauma deeply affected the affected communities.
  2. Infrastructure Damage: The earthquake caused extensive damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure. Homes were reduced to rubble, leaving many families homeless.
  3. Economic Impact: The economic consequences of the earthquake were significant, with businesses disrupted and agricultural production severely affected. The recovery process would take years and significant financial support.

Rescue and Relief Efforts

In the wake of the disaster, both government agencies and non-governmental organizations mobilized to provide immediate assistance and relief to the affected population. The Mexican government declared a state of emergency in Chiapas and Oaxaca, enabling a swift response. The military, police, and volunteers worked tirelessly to rescue survivors, provide medical aid, and distribute essential supplies like food, water, and blankets.

International support also poured in, with countries such as the United States and neighboring nations offering assistance. This global solidarity demonstrated the importance of international cooperation in times of crisis.

Resilience and Community Spirit

What stood out amidst the rubble and despair was the incredible resilience and strength of the Chiapas community. The people of Chiapas, known for their rich cultural heritage and tight-knit communities, came together to support one another.

  1. Community Initiatives: Local communities organized themselves to provide shelter, food, and emotional support to those in need. Neighbors helped each other salvage what they could from the wreckage, symbolizing the strength of human connections.
  2. Rebuilding Efforts: Despite the immense challenges, the people of Chiapas demonstrated an unwavering determination to rebuild their homes and communities. They sought innovative solutions, often using traditional building techniques that were more earthquake-resistant.
  3. Rescue and Relief Volunteers: Many individuals volunteered their time and resources to assist in the relief efforts. Doctors, nurses, and rescue teams worked tirelessly to provide medical care and rescue survivors from collapsed buildings.
  4. Cultural Resilience: Chiapas is home to several indigenous communities, and their rich cultural traditions played a significant role in the healing process. Ceremonies, rituals, and communal gatherings helped people cope with their losses and find strength in their heritage.

Lessons Learned

The 2017 Chiapas earthquake serves as a poignant reminder of the need for disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies in earthquake-prone regions. The earthquake's deep-seated origin made it challenging to predict, but lessons can still be drawn from the experience:

  1. Building Resilience: The importance of constructing earthquake-resistant buildings and infrastructure cannot be overstated. Investments in engineering and construction techniques that can withstand seismic events are essential.
  2. Early Warning Systems: The development and implementation of early warning systems can save lives by providing advance notice of impending earthquakes. Mexico has made significant strides in this area, but continued improvement is necessary.
  3. Community Preparedness: Empowering communities to prepare for disasters and respond effectively is crucial. Education and training programs can help individuals and families better understand how to protect themselves during an earthquake.


The 2017 Chiapas earthquake was a devastating event that tested the resilience and unity of the people of Chiapas. Despite the immense challenges, the community's unwavering spirit and determination to rebuild their lives serve as an inspiring example of human strength in the face of adversity.

As we reflect on this tragic event, we must also recognize the importance of disaster preparedness, resilient infrastructure, and international solidarity in responding to natural disasters. The lessons learned from the 2017 Chiapas earthquake can help us better prepare for and mitigate the impact of future seismic events, ensuring the safety and well-being of communities worldwide.

So what can we do to get better prepared?


A kit is not a safety blanket you just purchase to make yourself feel better, it is an important investment in your household’s safety and preparedness. Not all emergency kits are created equal, and we highly recommend using the Province of BC and Government of Canada resources when building or buying a kit. We are also pleased to offer Earthquake Kits that developed to meet the government requirements for emergency preparedness. Visit our Gov BC Earthquake Kit product page to view the contents of our kits and feel free to use this as a guideline for assembling your own. What’s important to us is not that you buy a kit from us, but that every household have a kit at the ready in case something unexpected should occur.


The Province of BC and the Federal Government have made huge strides in this area in recent years implementing an Emergency Notifications network through mobile carriers and testing it to great success levels. This can provide seconds to even minutes of advanced notice prior to an earthquake being felt in any given location. However, a network of this complexity relies on strategically positioned censors along the coastline. We need to continue expanding this network of sensors and make sure that existing censors are being properly monitored and maintained.

We also need to expand from mobile phone notifications to physical alarms in homes, buildings, and especially schools/daycares.

For more details on how this Early Detection Grid works, please check out the following video by the CBC several years ago.


Know the Hazards

Knowing which hazards you need to plan for is the first step to getting prepared


Build Your Kits

Put together a household emergency kit and grab-and-go bag.


Make Your Plan

Plan how you will respond to a disaster to stay focused and safe.


Guides and Resources

Preparedness guides and community resources are available to help get ready for emergencies.


Evacuation and Recovery Resources

Learn what happens in evacuations, what financial assistance you might be eligible for and other recovery resources.


Education Programs and Toolkits

Create awareness about preparing for emergencies with Prepared BC's easy-to-use education programs and social media toolkits.

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