The initial terror of Tuesday’s powerful earthquake that devastated parts of central Mexico has turned to grief in the municipality of Jojutla, Morelos, as residents begin to come to terms with both human and material losses.
Located about 50 kilometers south of Cuernavaca, the municipality was the worst affected in the state after hundreds of homes and other buildings collapsed. Hundreds more sustained severe structural damage.
At least 19 people died and the death toll across the state has reached 73.
Burials of some victims have already started.
Yesterday, a funeral procession passed through the devastated streets accompanying a coffin that carried the body of a 25-year-old woman who worked for the local government. She was one of three people who died when the roof of the municipal palace collapsed.
Distressed family members of the young woman sang to melancholic guitars as they walked while rescue workers momentarily stopped to watch the passing scene. Four other victims were also buried yesterday in a local cemetery.
Other residents only escaped death by a narrow margin and recounted their terrifying experiences.
María Fernanda, a 16-year-old student at the Morelos school, which was flattened by the quake, said she felt lucky to have escaped. She and about 200 other students managed to get out of the school just in time to witness its complete collapse.
“I felt horrible because I thought I was going to die,” she told the newspaper El Universal.
Ricardo Martínez García, who lives in the city’s center where damage was concentrated, described the scene there as “a war zone.”
He and his brother and mother ran to the street as the walls of the second story of his house began to collapse.
Once outside, they saw several nearby homes and buildings coming down around them. One of them was the city’s main church, a religious icon of the community that was built in 1884.
Another survivor, 70-year-old Mercedes Landa Palomina, managed to escape from her badly damaged home but then had to suffer the distress of hearing it and others falling around her.
While she got out, one of her neighbors didn’t make it.
“My neighbor, Mrs. Consuelo, was crushed because her whole house fell,” Landa Palomina told the newspaper Excélsior.
Yet more are grief stricken about losing their livelihoods.
Míriam Guadalupe Cueto watched listlessly as soldiers cleared the bricks and rubble of her small grocery store, a business that she had built up over the past 11 years.
She ran out of her shop early Tuesday afternoon, terrified by the strength of the 7.1-magnitude quake whose epicenter was about 70 kilometers away, near Axochiapan.
But yesterday, as she realized that she had lost everything, she was overcome by the loss.
“I feel horrible that I have nothing, I don’t know, I’m feeling a lot of things,” she said, fighting to hold back tears.
Two blocks away, another woman contemplated the bank building where she used to work, now cordoned off because of fears it could collapse.
“We don’t know what is going to happen. We have to wait, there’s nothing else we can do . . . .” Silvia Leyva said.
As in other affected areas, volunteers came out in force to contribute to the recovery efforts although El Universal reported today that more are needed to help clear the huge amounts of rubble.
Water and food supplies are also reportedly dwindling.
Since the quake, some people have been sleeping in the streets, either because their homes were destroyed or out of fear that aftershocks could cause the collapse of more buildings.
Military personnel are on the ground along with rescue workers from other parts of the state and country and five shelters have been set up for victims, while state Governor Graco Ramírez yesterday declared five days of mourning.