When Thursday’s earthquake struck at 11 minutes before midnight, many residents of Juchitán were already in bed. But not for long.
One of those who was still up said he felt two strong movements at first.
“. . . then came a shaking that almost made me fall down,” Gerardo Valdivieso told the newspaper Reforma. “I couldn’t remain standing, I had to hold on to a car to keep from falling down. The quake was very, very strong and lasted a long time.”
The magnitude 8.2 earthquake was the strongest felt in Mexico in a century, and it hit the city of Juchitán, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca state, with full force.
“The oldest houses fell down, no walls were left standing, everything came down. People were left trapped inside. Most of the houses that were destroyed were like this,” Valdivieso continued with his narration.
The older, brick and mortar, tile-roofed buildings were family houses. Most were built over 50 years ago, and had been passed on from one generation to the next.
Governor Alejandro Murat today estimated the number of houses with severe structural damage at 7,000 out of the municipality’s total of 14,000.
More modern concrete structures, while left standing, also sustained severe damage and many will have to be demolished because the quake left them uninhabitable.
Juchitán writer Irma Pineda described the levelled landscape that is the city’s downtown.
“Everything is full of rubble, it’s like a house of cards or [a row of] dominoes was toppled. All the houses came down and are now piles of rubble are spread on the streets.”
Once the ground stopped shaking residents began digging neighbors out of the ruins of their homes through the dark of night.
Valdivieso told of whole families that didn’t make it.
Thirty-seven residents of Juchitán, situated about 100 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter, are among the 65 confirmed dead so far.
There was no respite in the hours after the big one. Particularly intense aftershocks were felt in Juchitán, and at least 10 were strong.
The National Seismological Service said today it had registered 634 as of 5:00am today; the strongest was 6.1.
Early Friday morning some residents tried to get some rest, dragging mattresses and sofas into the streets. Those who still had homes were fearful of going back inside them because of the aftershocks.
Others had nowhere else to go; their homes had been destroyed.