Cover Image
close this bookDisaster Chronicles Number 3: Earthquake in Mexico, September 19 and 20, 1985 (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1985, 76 p.)
close this folder2. Magnitude of the disaster
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDamage to buildings
View the documentMortality and morbidity
View the documentRescue of victims
View the documentDamages to the health infrastructure
View the documentOrganization and immediate response
View the documentMobilization and evacuation of patients
View the documentEvacuation of the national medical center of the IMSS
View the documentManagement of bodies
View the documentDamages to the hydraulic system

Mortality and morbidity

Conflicting information from several sources was published regarding lost human lives (14). The Metropolitan Emergency Commission reported on October 19, 1985 a total of 4,287 deaths based on the number of bodies made available to the coroner's office. Combining the data from various sources, an estimate of 7,000 deaths was made (15) and the General Division of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health estimated the number of deaths at approximately 5,000 (16,17). Table 2 shows the number of bodies recovered from collapsed buildings and those that died later in health institutions.

The mortality rate by age and sex are analyzed taking into consideration the preliminary data presented by the General Division of Epidemiology on October 29, l985 (18). Deaths were more frequent in the intermediate age groups. Half of all registered deaths occurred between the ages of 25 and 64 years of age. In general 78% of total deaths were in persons older than 15 years of age (Table 3). The distribution by sex showed a slight predominance in men (52% as opposed to 48% in women). Table 4 shows the fate of people who found themselves in General Hospital and Benito Juárez Hospital.

It is estimated that in the obstetrics-gynecology unit of General Hospital there were approximately 385 adults (including 10 physicians) and 157 newborns at the time of collapse. Of the adults, 155 died (including the 10 physicians), 129 were rescued and 47 were missing. Of the newborns, 94 died and 63 were rescued. In the block of physicians' residences of the same hospital there were 86 medical residents; 46 perished and 40 were rescued alive.

Table 2. Number of Bodies Recovered by Location and Type of Collapsed

Building, Mexico, D.F., 1985


Deaths

Location and Type

Number

Percent

Edificio Nuevo León

321

7.7

General Hospital

295

7.1

Juárez Hospital

561

13.5

Multifamiliar Juárez

205

4.9

Conalep en Humboldt and Juárez

119

2.9

Hotel Principiado

118

2.8

Hotel Regis Centro

74

1.9

Paraguay 36

50

1.2

Av. Universidad 13

47

1.2

Ahorro Postal 14

44

1.1

Lázaro Cárdenas

44

1.1

Calle de Querétaro 179

37

0.9

Orizaba 174

35

0.8

Liverpool 24

34

0.8

Chilpancingo 116

35

0.8

Eligio Ancona No. 19 and No. 85

33

0.7

Hotel Romana

30

0.7

Heroes 214

29

0.7

Insurgentes Sur 189

29

0.7

Mitla

27

0.6

Centro Médico Nacional

10

0.2

Persons who perished in various health institutes

241

5.8

Persons who perished in other places

1,742

41.9

TOTAL

4,160

100.0

Source: Adapted from Informes de la Procuraduría General de Justicia y Dirección General Epidemiología S.S.A. The preliminary reports were updated with the references (23 and 24).

Table 3. Mortality Distribution by Real and Apparent Age, Mexico, D.F., 1985, (Corpses Recovered from Collapsed Buildings).a

a Preliminary data (until the 29 of October, 1985).

Age Groups

Deceased

Percent

1

173

4.8

1-4

143

4.0

5-14

287

8.0

5-24

770

21.5

25-44

1,293

36.1

45-64

519

14.5

65+

226

6.3

Ignored

168

4.7

TOTAL

3,579

100.000

Source: Dirección General de Averiguaciones Previas/Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal.

The proportion of global mortality for this institution was 63%. It was not possible to obtain the exact number of persons who were in the hospitalization tower of Benito Juárez Hospital when the collapse occurred.

One hundred and seventy-nine (179) persons were rescued alive. Among the 561 fatalities, 266 belonged to the hospital ranks, including 44 physicians.

Taking into consideration the 536 available beds, with an estimated occupation of 80%, the number of operating rooms, the usual personnel for surgeries and the students that frequented the tower, it is reasonable to assume that the total number of trapped persons would surpass those rescued alive and dead

It was difficult to process information on the morbidity caused by the earthquake, especially as it related to moderate and life-threatening wounds, due to the dispersion of and the quality of information regarding diagnosis. It is estimated that 10,000 persons suffered life-threatening injuries and 30,000 moderate wounds. The health sector institutions informed the Interinstitutional Commission of the Ministry of Health that of the 3,285 patients admitted to hospitals immediately after the earthquake, 83% were released in the first few days, and that by October 1, only 141 patients remained hospitalized (19). The distribution of hospitalized patients in different institutions is shown in Table 5.

Table 4. Persons Who Perished and Those Who Were Rescued Alive After the Collapse of General Hospital and Juárez Hospital, Mexico City, D.F., 1985


Collapsed Hospitals

Characteristics of the Victims

General

Juárez


Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Deceased

295

62.6

561

76.0

Patients

85

18.0



Newborns

94

20.0

295

40.0

Doctors

56

11.9

44

6.0

Nurses

37

7.9



Administrative personnel

4

0.8

222

30.0

Intendant personnel

16

3.4



Visitors

3

0.6



Rescued alive

129

27.4

179

24.0

Adults

26

5.5

171

23.5

Newborns

63

13.4

4

0.5

Doctors

40

8.5

4

0.5

Missing

47

10.0



TOTAL

471

100.0

740

100.0

Source: References (23 and 24).

Table 5. Hospital Care, Admissions and Releases

Institution

Admissions

Releases

Patients Hospitalized

Deceased

DDF

316

289

27

57

IMSS

1,935

1,566

50a

106

ISSSTE

913

773

56a

23

Red Cross

121

113

8

25

TOTAL

3,285

2,741

141

221

a Approximate numbers
Source: Ministerio de Salud. Informe de una Comisión Intersectorial, October 1, 1985.

Table 6. Lesions by Type and Topography of the Population Treated in the Medical Services of the Federal District Throughout the First Five Days Following the September 19 Earthquake

Lesion Topography

Head and Neck

Spinal Column

Superior Member

Inferior Member

Trunk

Other

Total Persons Registered (%)

Unspecified

Total(%)

Contusion

21

4

24

37

20

-

106

(25)

50

156

(18)

Injury

39

2

28

16

5

-

90

(21)

5

95

(11)

Fracture

13

1

34

41

15

-

104

(24)

116

220

(25)

Burn

-

1

-

1

1

-

3

(1)

1

4

( )

Intoxication

-

-

-

-

-

15

15

(4)

-

15

(2)

Psychologic Trauma

-

-

-

-

-

109

109

(25)

-

109

(13)

Total Registered (%)

73 (17)

8 (2)

86 (20)

95 (22)

41 (10)

124 (29)

427

(100)

-

-


Unspecified


16

-

1

4

13

-


237

271

(13)

TOTAL

89 (10)

8 (1)

87 (10)

99 (12)

54 (6)

124 (14)

-

409 (47)

870

(100)


X2 = 38.62 significant p .0005
(applicable for information regarding physical lesions)

Source: Dirección General de Servicios Médicos del Departamento del Distrito Federal, Informe de la población atendida en los servicios médicos del Departamento del D.F. dentro de 105 5 primeros días posteriores d sismo del 19 de septiembre de 1985. November, 1985.

Table 7. Trauma Related to Morbidity by Anatomical Segment, Red Cross Hospital, Mexico, D.F., September 19, 1985


Head and face

Neck and trunk

Superior Extremities

Inferior Extremities

Other

Total

Trauma with fracture

2

5

7

15

-

29 (20.1)

Injury

4

2

5

4

-

15 (10.4)

Contusions

1

12

7

12

-


Policontusions

-

-

-

-

38


Simple

-

-

-

-

4

74 (51.4)

Intracraneal Trauma

14

-

-

-

-

14 ( 9.7)

Complications by trauma

Politrauma

-

-

-

-

4


Others

-

-

-

-

1

7 (4.9)

Sprain

-

1

-

3

-

4 (2.8)

Crush syndrome

-

-

-

-

1

1 (0.7)

TOTAL

21

21

20

34

48

114 (100.0)

In this earthquake, as in others registered in the region, it was demonstrated that emergency medical attention declined rapidly after the first 48 hours, and that the majority of the wounded received ambulatory medical attention. An appreciation of lesions, by anatomical segment, can be observed in Tables 6 and 7. These tables are based on partial information registered in the medical Division of the Department of the Federal District and in the Mexican Red Cross Hospital during the first days after the earthquake (20, 21).