“We’re in the street”
By Guadalupe Rios (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — In just two minutes, the most famous historic sites in the Mexican municipality of Juchitan disappeared, hundreds of homes collapsed and a large number of families found themselves out on the street in the middle of the night.
An 8.2 earthquake took away Andres Aquino Sanchez’s home which he had bought two years ago. The wide patio and tiled roof, the large adobe and brick pillars are just a pile of rubble today. “I wanted to keep a house in this style. It cost me 680,000 pesos (about 38,800 USD), who do I put a claim in to?” he commented.
The earthquake which struck on Thursday night – with its epicenter in the Pacific – shook southern and central Mexico and took away Aquino’s home, although he manages to find some consolation amidst this disaster. “I am thankful that my family and I are OK and that’s everything,” he said.
The quake took place at the same time hurricane Irma was smashing the eastern Caribbean Islands and approaching Cuba where it would also do major damage.
A city located 720 km to the south-east of Mexico City, Juchitan was most affected by the earthquake and 36 of its 98,000 inhabitants died, although this figure could rise. Nine more died in the rest of the Oaxaca state, which Juchitan belongs to. At least 61 people have died, in total, as a result of the earthquake.
The Municipal Palace, the Town Hall, the San Vicente Ferrer temple, the town’s patron saint, and a long list of historical buildings such as the Casa de la Cultura, the home of revolutionary general Helidoro Charis Castro and the railway station all collapsed along with the Macedonio Benitez hospital, the biggest there.
Cordoned-off roads and huge pieces of walls of what used to be homes now block many of the access routes to the different parts of Juchitan. The night of the earthquake, families went out on the street and didn’t sleep, waiting until dawn to assess the damage.
“We called the authorities for help. Our homes were completely destroyed, we are now out on the street. We needed them to give us water and food and a place to stay,” Noel Martinez, a 55-year old man, said.
On Friday, President Enrique Pena Nieto visited Juchitan to take stock of the damage and he assured residents that one of the Government’s priorities was to rebuild homes that were destroyed and other buildings which had collapsed.
“As you can see here, in Juchitan, people have great strength, they have great unity,” he said before explaining that support from the Secretary of Development will be provided, that a temporary employment program will be established and that resources will be given to people so they can start rebuilding.
Another initiative which the president mentioned was a prototype of homes which the Army could develop and which would facilitate building projects in Juchitan and in other affected regions.
However, the current situation is heartbreaking. Groups of people sit on benches and streets anxiously asking whether help will come soon. They are asking for water, some food and clothes. Children cry because they are bothered by the heat, by hunger and how uncomfortable benches turned into beds, tables or chairs are, depending on people’s needs.
Two young children remain standing in front of a street where the only two pillars holding up a home over 80 years old stands. On another street, a colonial house which used to be a popular bar in Juchitan is now a mountain of bricks, beams and dust. Three bodies were recovered from the rubble: a tourist, a doctor and an employee.
Losing their homes has also meant that many people have lost their businesses and their sources of income. “My house collapsed, we’re out on the street. How can I work? The bread oven collapsed and is destroyed,” 30-year-old Luis Lopez lamented.
“I sell food, everything was still inside, I can’t cook and plus there’s nothing at the market,” Angela Sanchez complained, who explained that she didn’t have any money neither. Businesses which are still standing in Juchitan haven’t reopened because of fears of further collapses.
The state of Chiapas, which neighbors Oaxaca, also suffered damage and there were some fatalities, however, the Mexican government emphasized that Juchitan was the most affected place and has promised that help is on the way. “We will continue to work,” was his promise.