Disasters & Accidents

Open wounds remain 5 years after devastating Mexico City quake

By Cristina Sanchez Reyes

Mexico City, Sep 19 (EFE).- Feelings of abandonment and neglect persist five years after a powerful earthquake battered the Mexican capital.

Among those left homeless by the Sept. 19, 2017, Puebla earthquake, more than 23 percent still are without a permanent residence of their own, according to official figures, while others whose homes were rebuilt complain about problems with the new constructions.

“We’re five years on from the Sept. 19 earthquake, and it could have been just a date on the calendar like other temblors,” Francia Gutierrez, a resident of an apartment building in the Mexico City borough of Tlalpan that collapsed that day, told Efe.

“But that date became an open wound for Mexico City because there are thousands of families who haven’t been able to return home.”

One of more than 20,000 people whose property and belongings were reduced to rubble, Gutierrez said she and many other earthquake victims had to quickly leave aside their anguish and fight to ensure authorities rebuilt their homes and provided aid to the victims.

“We’re now in the stage of inhabiting our homes, but also of seeing how the installations, the finishings, were done,” she said.

Israel Ballesteros also is a resident of that same multi-family building on Mexico City’s south side as well as a member of a collective known as Damnificados Unidos de la Ciudad de Mexico, which comprises hundreds of people whose homes still have not been repaired.

He said authorities have manipulated the numbers pertaining to the reconstruction effort and that he does not accept the latest official figures indicating 77 percent of homes have been rebuilt.

“It’s a false figure,” Ballesteros said, adding that in fact only 57 percent of the more than 22,000 quake-destroyed homes have been reconstructed.

He also said additional finagling of the numbers has occurred, insisting that authorities have nearly cut in half the number of buildings recognized as damaged by the temblor.

“There are many with no prospects of recovering their home” because they have been excluded from the registry, Ballesteros added.

Nearly 370 people died (228 in Mexico City) in that magnitude-7.1 earthquake, whose epicenter was located around 55 kilometers (35 miles) south of the central city of Puebla.

The emotional impact was even greater because the Sept. 19, 2017, temblor occurred on the 32nd anniversary of a magnitude-8.1 earthquake that left more than 20,000 dead, most of whom perished in the Mexican capital.

Gutierrez said she feels fortunate to have a roof over her head, though adding there are various problems with her reconstructed home, including problems with toilet tanks and water heaters, as well as low-quality materials that have led to her incurring extra costs.

“We’re going to pay knowing that someone who should have done things the right way didn’t do it and that someone should have penalized that company for those extra costs, for that poor installation work,” she added.

Ballesteros added that earthquake victims have been treated with contempt by the authorities, while both he and Gutierrez said the capital is not any more ready for these types of natural disasters than 37 years ago. EFE


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