01.03.05. Environmental and infrastructural aspects | Mexico

01.03.05. Environmental and infrastructural aspects | Mexico

11 Jul 2022

Mexico has a long history and constant hazard of large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Volcán de Colima, south of Guadalajara, erupted in 1994, and El Chichón, in southern Mexico in 1983. Although dormant for decades, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl occasionally send out smoke clearly visible in Mexico City and ashes that sometimes reach the city. Popocatépetl showed renewed activity in 1995 and 1996, forcing the evacuation of several nearby villages and led to concern about the effect that a large-scale eruption might have on the heavily populated region nearby. Popocatépetl’s activity and all related concerns continue to date (Abeldaño Zúñiga & González Villoria, 2018).

In addition, the country registers more than 90 earthquakes every year with intensity of 4 degrees or higher on the Richter scale and has had major earthquakes over the past decades. Most recently, in September 1985, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale and centred in the subduction zone off Acapulco, killed more than 4,000 people in Mexico City, more than 300 kilometres away. The same region was rocked in September 2017 by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake that killed nearly 100 people and damaged thousands of buildings. A more damaging 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico later that month left more than 400 dead, including at least 228 in Mexico City.

It is estimated that 90% of natural disasters are hydro-meteorological and affect mainly the southeast of the country. Finally, there is an average of 23 hurricanes with winds of more than 63 km/h between the months of May and November. Of these, on average, 14 hurricanes occur in the Pacific Ocean and 9 in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2015). According to the United Nations, Mexico is classified amongst the top 30 countries worldwide exposed to three or more natural disasters of multiple magnitudes per year (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2015).

Mexico has a National Civil Protection Program 2008-2012 that promotes a multi-institutional coordination, in the area of civil protection in order to protect the life, the environment and the patrimony of society. Thus, in an emergency, the first authority that has knowledge should provide immediate assistance and inform the specialised civil protection authorities. The hierarchical order goes from municipal authorities to the state ones and, finally, the federal ones. The municipal authority is the first specialised instance, and if its response capacity is overcome, then it must resort to the state authority, and so on, until it reaches the federal authorities.

In addition, the DN-III Plan organised by the Navy and Armed Forces, is in charge of organising and mobilising relocations (shelters, safe houses) for hurricane watch and of conducting recovery and reconstruction actions in case of disasters or damages after these events. Finally, the federal government operates a Natural Disaster Fund and the delivery of support to the population (Gobierno de México, 2008), but there are not any policies/plans for people living with dementia and other disabilities in case of emergencies.


Abeldaño Zúñiga, R. A., & González Villoria, A. M. (2018). Desastres en México de 1900 a 2016: patrones de ocurrencia, población afectada y daños económicos. Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública, 42, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.26633/rpsp.2018.55

Gobierno de México. (2008). Programa Nacional de Protección Civil 2008-2012. Diario Oficial de La Federación. http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle_popup.php?codigo=5060600

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (2015). The Force of Nature in Mexico, as seen from space. http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/informationfor/articles/the-force-of-nature-in-mexico–as-seen-from-space.html