- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The U.S. and Mexico will expand an earthquake monitoring system south of the border in the wake of last year’s deadly magnitude-7.2 temblor, officials from both countries announced Wednesday.

U.S. experts will provide sensors, a computer network and training to help their counterparts in northern Baja California to identify areas at greatest risk of suffering damage from a big temblor and could save lives and property, officials said.

Emergency planners were unable to determine where to send help in the early stages after the Easter Sunday 2010 quake that was centered south of Mexicali and killed two people in Mexico, said Roberto Quaas Weppen, director general of the Mexican National Center for Prevention of Disasters.

“This is something that we missed a year ago,” he said during a news conference in Pasadena, Calif. “We were not able to know how strong the earthquake was” because of a lack of instruments to determine the quake’s intensity and how it was spreading.


“The intensity of the groundshaking could not be measured, how strongly the ground is shaking. And this is a very important parameter to assess damage,” he said.

The lack of backup systems also made it impossible to share that data when the Internet and communications went down. Under the new program, scientists from both countries will be better able to share data on earthquake hazards, officials said.

The project is an historic collaboration that will benefit both countries, said Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science of the U.S. Interior Department.

“It has been said that geologic faults and earthquakes don’t care about borders,” she said. “Human suffering and the desire to help: We don’t care about borders.”

Under the jointly funded project, the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Northern Command will provide new sensors that can measure strong ground motion in the earthquake-prone Mexicali and Tijuana areas. The sensors will be set in different types of soil, which plays a role in amplifying or reducing the shock of a temblor.

Mexican researchers also will be trained to quickly determine how the quake is spreading and where the damage might be expected, authorities said.

The U.S. is contributing $500,000 for the expanded quake monitoring network, which should be in operation next year. The Mexican government is including funding in its $50-million program to create an integrated national earthquake system, said Doug Given, Southern California seismic network coordinator for the USGS.