Disasters & Accidents

Amid pandemic, Mexicans still waiting for repairs to quake-damaged homes

By Juan Manuel Ramirez G.

Mexico City, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- Thousands of Mexico City residents affected by a powerful 2017 temblor have dealt this year with the reality of the pandemic even as they continue their long wait for repairs to their earthquake-damaged homes.

According to the latest figures from the Mexico City government’s Reconstruction Commission, released on July 31, a total of 7,774 properties – including multi-family and single family residences – were damaged by the magnitude-7.1 temblor that rocked south-central Mexico on Sept. 19, 2017.

Many people had hoped their homes would be rebuilt and delivered this year, but amid the onset of the coronavirus crisis that has not always been the case.

“The authorities would tell us, ‘stay at home.’ But what home, if we have nowhere to live?” 60-year-old Trinidad Godinez, who had been living in a six-floor apartment building with her mother in Mexico City’s trendy Condesa neighborhood, said Friday in an interview with Efe.

“Since the beginning (the day after the earthquake), we’ve been dealing with indifferent, neglectful, opaque governments,” she said.

In the days after the earthquake, international aid and donations from virtually the entire world began pouring in and eventually totaled more than 90 billion pesos (around $4.3 billion).

But three years later many people whose homes were damaged by the powerful temblor say those funds evaporated, possibly as a result of mismanagement.

In the wake of the tragedy, the task of attending to the earthquake victims fell to the administration of then-Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera.

Following the July 2018 elections, that reconstruction effort has been led by current Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum’s team.

One of Mexico City’s most quake-affected neighborhoods was Colonia del Mar, located in the capital municipality of Tlahuac.

Africa Garcia’s home in that district was tilted to one side by the temblor and sank into the soil; the earthquake also left an enormous crack in the ground on the property, which now lies desolate.

“For us, nothing major has happened in three years,” the 45-year-old mother of three told Efe. “We’re almost like where we were when we started, with no solution.”

A year after the quake, experts ruled out the possibility of rebuilding on the property due to the large crack, she said, adding that the plan was for the family to be relocated.

“The pandemic complicated our situation even more. They told us to stay at home, but we don’t have a home. We have to raise our voices so they listen because they’ve forgotten that there are thousands of us who still haven’t returned to their homes,” Garcia said.

About 35 kilometers (22 miles) separate the Colonia del Mar neighborhood in Tlahuac from the Condesa neighborhood in Cuauhtemoc, where Godinez reviews the progress being made on her earthquake-damaged apartment building.

“The time goes by very slowly under these conditions, and for us three years has been a long time,” she said.

Although the building was on the verge of being demolished to make way for a new one with more apartments, the residents opposed the move and found themselves on a list of properties pending repair.

“There’s been a one-year delay, and there’s still no date when it might be finished and delivered,” Godinez said.

Even so, amid the chaos generated by the earthquake, which claimed a total of 369 lives, 228 in the capital alone, there also have been stories with a happy ending.

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