UM student experiences earthquake in Mexico while fleeing Hurricane Irma

As thousands of University of Miami students sought refuge from the impact of Hurricane Irma, one student had a close encounter with another natural disaster in the process.

Junior Alec Litofsky was in Mexico City when a magnitude 8.1 earthquake shook Mexico Thursday, Sept. 7. It was the largest earthquake to hit the country in over a century. Just a day earlier, Litofsky had boarded a plane from Miami to Mexico City after UM cancelled classes and suggested students to evacuate in preparation for the storm.

Litofsky said though he didn’t feel the impact of the earthquake in Mexico City as strongly as others, he knows of some who did.

“They were really scared,” said Litofsky, a double major in political science and international relations. “One [friend] said she had to wake her son up and run outside because the building was swaying. She felt the building crack. She was on the 12th floor.”

The worst of the quake was felt in southern coastal states such as Oaxaca and Chiapas. The magnitude of the earthquake stretched as far as Mexico City to Guatemala City.

Litofsky, originally from San Antonio, Texas, said although he didn’t feel the extensive impact of the earthquake, he said he believes he would have been more afraid of Hurricane Irma.

“I guarantee I would have been more scared in Miami,” he said. “The earthquake didn’t last so long and we didn’t know it would happen.”

In the aftermath of the earthquake, an estimated 90 deaths have been recorded – most of them in Oaxaca and Chiapas. UM President Julio Frenk has ties to both states.

Frenk spent time in both Oaxaca and Chiapas while he was in high school. He said, at the time, transportation was minimal. It would take him hours walking to get to where he was going.

He said though infrastructure is better now, the area of Chiapas is sill poor and mountainous.

“When we deny climate change and all of that, and refuse to take action, we are affecting these poor people,” Frenk said.

Though Frenk’s parents live in Mexico City, they still felt the gravity of the shake. His mom, 89, and his dad, 94, were able to get down to the ground floor of their building when the earthquake shook the city.

In the hours and days after the earthquake, tsunami warnings were issued and over 62 aftershocks were reported, according to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

For Litofsky, the uncertainty of natural disasters and their aftermaths doesn’t scare him.

“There’s not much you can do but pray,” he said.