Road damage in Oaxaca. Road damage in Oaxaca.

Earthquake aid is slow to arrive in remote mountain areas of Oaxaca

Three indigenous communities remain cut off

The damage caused by Tuesday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Oaxaca continues to cut off several communities in the Ozolotepec indigenous region, where roads are blocked by debris and communication hampered by limited phone and internet.

In some cases authorities have had to resort to delivering assistance on foot.

Federal emergency services and the Red Cross, who arrived within 12 hours of the earthquake, often had to abandon their vehicles and walk to isolated communities. Many of the settlements, which are some of the poorest in Mexico, are connected to the outside world by vulnerable dirt roads that under normal rainy season conditions become impassable.

The indigenous Zapotec communities of San José Ozolotopec, San Antonio Ozolotepec and San Andrés Lovene, local officials told El Universal, remain incommunicado. Officials estimate there are a total of about 150 homes there.

Two people in other communities have been reported dead and one missing. Another 15 are reportedly trapped under fallen debris in the community of Santa Catarina Xanaguía. Residents there say part of a hill broke away causing a landslide, but government authorities say that it was actually the result of earthquake damage to a local highway.

A rocky hill disturbed by the earthquake threatens the community of Santa María Mixtequilla.
A rocky hill disturbed by the earthquake threatens the community of Santa María Mixtequilla.

In the municipality of San Juan Ozolotepec, where Mayor Francisco Reyes made a video asking for earthquake aid, recovery is slow.

“Many homes are demolished,” he told the newspaper La Razón. “They have many cracks. People won’t be able to inhabit them … At this point, we don’t know how many people are injured. We don’t have the machinery to clear the roads.”

The state government has opened a shelter to provide food and shelter for the displaced.

Meanwhile, emergency officials in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, warn that a likely inevitable rockslide threatens Santa María Mixtequilla. Residents are asking state and local Civil Protection authorities to intervene and activate preventative safety protocols.

The earthquake loosened part of a large rocky hill, creating observable fissures that a citizen reported to local authorities. One large rock has already fallen, crashing into the bathrooms of a local church, and another threatens to tumble onto the village if another major earthquake or even strong rains occur, local Civil Protection officials said.

The damage to the rock face made news initially because it revealed a previously unknown example of what appear to be prehistoric cave paintings. Residents are also asking federal authorities to send anthropologists to examine and preserve the site.

Sources: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp), La Razón (sp)

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