Mexicans in B.C. are anxious but determined to help after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City on Tuesday evening. 

According to Mexican officials, 225 people were killed, less than two weeks after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico, killing nearly 100 people.

Gustavo Garcia is a cook at a Vancouver restaurant, but his parents and sisters live in Mexico City.

"It was scary really," he said.

 "A lot of buildings — around 30, 40 buildings — went down.

The city was in chaos.

One of the neighbourhoods close to my house was completely destroyed."

Garcia said he was overcome with relief when his mother called and said his family's home was safe.

But close by, many people needed help.

"[Across] the street. it was a school. It was a kindergarten and some of the students were trapped in the school as well. A friend of mine called me and said he was trying to help people, that there were people screaming," said Garcia.

"I wish I could be there to help."

The quake struck just hours after an annual drill which falls on the anniversary of a deadly earthquake in 1985. 

GustavoGarcia

Gustavo Garcia moved to Vancouver from Mexico City one year ago. (CBC)

'It's like gelatin'

UBC civil engineering professor Carlos Ventura studies earthquakes in an effort to make buildings safer, and has conducted research in Mexico. 

He says Mexico City is unique because it is built on the bed of a former lake.

"It is mostly the type of material that is very soft — it's like gelatin," he said.

"Imagine a bowl of gelatin that you're shaking, and in the middle it shakes more and if you put buildings there then the shaking will increase significantly."

Ventura said he hopes to get a team of Canadian civil engineers together to travel to Mexico City to help in the rescue and rebuilding efforts.

No warning system in B.C.

In many of the videos coming out of Mexico, a droning siren can be heard just before the shaking begins. 

Mexico City's early detection system gave people approximately 10 seconds of warning that the earthquake was coming.

But in B.C., which shares several tectonic similarities with Mexico, there's still no functional early detection system.

Ocean Networks Canada is developing a detection system for B.C. with $5-million in funding, and plans on delivering the technology to the province in 2019.

With files from Rafferty Baker and Meera Bains