Rebuilding thousands of homes after last month’s two devastating earthquakes was never going to be easy, but adding to the difficulty is that some victims are discovering that the financial aid offered by the federal government doesn’t go very far.
Last month the government announced that up to 120,000 pesos (US $6,250) would be available to people whose homes were completely destroyed in either the September 7 or September 19 quake.
But with that amount, residents of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca will only be able to build a small 40-square-meter house, according to a member of a local civil engineering organization.
One of the victims is Juchitán resident Manuel Carrasco who, despite having received no government aid yet, has already started working on his new home.
But living in such a small house will be a big change from the 120-square-meter, three-bedroom home he shared with his wife and daughter before it collapsed on September 7.
“My house was an inheritance from my grandparents, it was valued at 700,000 pesos (US $36,500). Today it’s only rubble and the worst thing is that I’ll never be able to build something like what I lost,” he told the newspaper Milenio.
According to advice he’s received, he’ll need to find a further 50,000 pesos above and beyond the aid amount for the installation of electrical wiring, a new wastewater drainage system and a cistern, Carrasco said.
Gabriel Cervantes of the Juchitán Civil Engineers Association, who is working on Carrasco’s new home and has offered free advice to thousands of earthquake victims, said the aid is inadequate.
“It’s barely enough for them to build a room with minimal measurements and without finishings such as plastering, floor tiles and cement finishing, and that’s without even thinking about a tiled roof like most of these houses had,” Cervantes said.
He added that the insufficient budget not only meant that people would have to live in a confined space but also that homes couldn’t be built to guidelines to ensure they can adequately resist seismic activity. The specific materials needed and a more solid foundation would only raise the cost further, he said.
Using a list supplied by Cervantes, Milenio checked the prices of the building materials required for a 40 square-meter home and came up with a cost of just under 80,000 pesos.
Not included are labor costs, which according to a builder with 30 years of experience would add a further 48,000 pesos to the total cost. Together, they exceed the maximum aid available, meaning that people would have to use their own funds or find another alternative.
Many families will be left living in cramped conditions inferior to their previous dwellings.
For one victim whose home is still standing but suffered serious structural damage, the preferable option is to spend his savings and the little he will receive from the government to reinforce the walls of the house rather than knocking it down and starting over.
“I’m not going to throw away my wealth, it would be like giving up meat for beans,” Rafael Ruiz said.
“This house is valued at 500,000 pesos, not 120,000. It’s a beautiful, big house. I’m not going to exchange it for a hovel . . . .”
Source: Milenio (sp)