Skeletal remains of a house in San Gregorio. Skeletal remains of a house in San Gregorio. milenio

Time stands still for town in Xochimilco

After the earthquake, residents are still waiting for authorities to show up

San Gregorio Atlapulco in the southern Mexico City borough of Xochimilco was one of the worst affected by the September 19 earthquake, but local residents say that despite the widespread devastation they suffered, authorities have forgotten their plight.

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Six people died in the suburb in the 7.1-magnitude quake and, according to a census carried out by local residents, more than 1,200 homes were damaged.

But since the earthquake struck at 1:14pm on that fateful Tuesday afternoon, it seems the clock has stopped in the neighborhood because scores of houses remain in ruins and rubble still lies strewn across the streets.

While volunteers and citizens’ groups went to the immediate aid of quake victims and have remained to contribute to the recovery efforts, authorities have been conspicuous by their absence.

“Our town is one of the most devastated by the number of houses [damaged], I think we exceed many other boroughs but even so no one has made a visit to corroborate it,” resident María Saldaña told the newspaper Milenio.

When Xochimilco borough chief Avelino Méndez showed up two days after the earthquake, he was run out of town by a group of about 70 locals who were angry at the lack of government support and accused him of opportunism by arriving to take a photo with volunteer rescue workers.

He hasn’t returned since.

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Now, more than two weeks later, the water supply still hasn’t been restored, children haven’t returned to school and whole families continue to sleep in the streets on makeshift beds under temporary shelters.

“We put a mattress down, we put up a tarp. We have no other choice,” said Julieta Salvador, another local resident.

Dozens of other families are doing the same either because their homes collapsed or they are still waiting for authorities to arrive to make a ruling on the structural integrity of their houses. Many are fearful they could collapse at any time.

Residents’ anger at the absent authorities is palpable.

“What are they waiting for? For more human losses? Who are we going to hold responsible? Who is going to take responsibility for this negligence?” Saldaña asked.

“Because not responding urgently to the needs of the population is negligence,” she added.

Source: Milenio (sp), Excélsior (sp)

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