The new classrooms after a windy day in the Isthmus. The new classrooms after a windy day in the Isthmus.

Costly classrooms collapse in high winds

Isthmus winds knock down four half-built temporary structures

Four half-built temporary classrooms for students whose schools collapsed in the September 7 earthquake collapsed themselves yesterday, unable to withstand the high winds that are characteristic of the region.

The classrooms were intended to help house students who would otherwise be attending one of the 67 schools that were razed in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the region that suffered most from the 8.2-magnitude quake.

The temporary classrooms are being built using PVC in the municipality of Asunción Ixtaltepec.

But northerly winds gusting up to 144 kilometres per hour started blowing early yesterday morning, and they were too much for the incomplete structures.

The regional supervisor from INIFED, the National Institute of Physical Infrastructure for Education, said the collapsed structures were designed to withstand the strong winds of the Isthmus region, but the contractor in charge didn’t secure the construction materials.

Artemio López Valdespino said the builder had not expected that the winds would be so strong.

The former chairman of the Oaxaca College of Architects disagreed with López, accusing the state of not having considered the weather conditions of the Isthmus region before ordering the PVC classrooms.

Lázaro García Saavedra said the weather is unlike any other region in the country: sweltering temperatures can reach 50 C and and at certain times of the year winds will gust higher than 120 kilometres per hour.

Some parents now share García’s concern and wonder if their children will be safe. The principal of the secondary school where the classrooms collapsed said parents are worried that the buildings will not withstand the high winds, which begin to blow in October.

They were particularly strong yesterday afternoon, when gusts of 216 kilometers an hour were recorded in the nearby town of La Ventosa.

Whether the temporary classrooms will suffice remains to be seen, but it’s clear they are a more expensive option than permanent structures.

The newspaper El Universal checked into the cost and found the new classrooms are running about 426,500 pesos each (US $22,300), 33% more than a traditional classroom designed specifically for regions prone to high seismic activity.

According to figures from the state and federal institutes for educational infrastructure, the cost of a brick-and-mortar schoolroom is just over 320,000 pesos (about $16,800).

Source: El Universal (sp), El Imparcial (sp)

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