It has been six months since the earthquakes of September but the reconstruction process has been “alarmingly slow,” says Save the Children México, leaving some communities, particularly in Oaxaca, in a precarious situation.
Executive director María Josefina Menéndez told a press conference today that rebuilding has begun of just 29% of homes and 66% of schools that were completely destroyed in quakes on September 7, 19 and 23.
She charged that many families have received no support, citing homes in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca where no damage census was taken following the earthquake on September 23. She also claimed that some officials have put conditions on receiving aid.
The organization’s coordinator in the isthmus city of Juchitán predicted a “problematic situation” within just a few weeks when the rainy season begins. Noe Rojas said many families continue to live under tarpaulins.
Save the Children said it has provided aid to 94,000 people in Oaxaca and Puebla and has received 47.24 million pesos (US $2.5 million) in donations from the private sector, foreign governments and individual donors.
Reconstruction has also been slow — and not without irregularities — in areas of central Mexico that were devastated by the September 19 earthquake.
In three of the worst affected states — México, Tlaxcala and Puebla — many quake victims have, little by little, managed to rebuild their homes and lives.
But many have also accused authorities of irregularities that are both related to the census that was carried out to assess damage and the delivery of relief funds.
In some cases, people who lost their homes claim they have received no financial support at all while others say they have received far less than what that they really need.
However, there has been a concerted effort to ensure that new homes built to replace those that were damaged or collapsed are up to a standard that will prevent them from suffering the same fate in the future.
Specialists from the México State Autonomous University (UAEM) are among those who have designed alternative ways to build homes that are more stable, sustainable and resistant to strong seismic activity.
One construction technique uses adobe walls that can be dismantled. Developed by a team led by professor Ramón Gutiérrez Martínez of the university’s Faculty of Architecture and Design, it has already been patented.
The fact that the walls can be assembled and taken apart at will gives them greater flexibility and resistance to seismic activity, Gutiérrez explained.
Another UAEM project called Xacali uses an improved form of adobe to build homes that are better able to resist a strong earthquake.
In Puebla, federal and state authorities estimate that the rebuilding of homes will be completed between June and July.
They said 28,345 homes sustained some kind of damage, while 5,638 collapsed completely.
Progress on building homes to replace the latter is estimated to be 75% to 77% complete, placing Puebla fourth among seven states that are currently in the process of rebuilding.
Stored-value bank cards loaded with up to 120,000 pesos (US $6,400) for people who lost their homes completely have been distributed to 95% of eligible people, according to state authorities.
In the small state of Tlaxcala, 144 churches and historical monuments were damaged in addition to homes and schools and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) is continuing work to restore the damage in conjunction with 48 specialists.
Work to repair schools using 308 million pesos (almost US $16.5 million) pledged by the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) is also ongoing.
Only 34 homes in the state were damaged and 25 of those have already been fully repaired with federal and private money.
In Jojutla, Morelos — another state where the temblor caused extensive damage — reconstruction has been slower than expected and has come at a considerable expense.
Approximately 80% of all businesseshave shut down since September 19 and about 5,000 people have lost their jobs.
Many local residents are still waiting for the financial support they were promised while others are fighting to have the damage that their homes sustained categorized as “total loss” rather than “partially damaged.”
In many cases, homes deemed to be only partially damaged had to be bulldozed completely but without an official change to the damage designation the amount of funding owners can access is considerably less.
In Mexico City, hundreds of residents who were affected by the earthquake held a minute’s silence yesterday to remember the victims at the exact moment it struck: 1:14pm.
They along with others on social media also called on authorities not to forget the hundreds of families that are still living in makeshift camps because they are unable to return to their homes.
More than 3,000 buildings were damaged in the powerful earthquake but protesters argued that many of them do not appear in the official government census.
Seismologists are still studying the September 19 earthquake but one recent study concluded that the event was a rare “bending” quake that could happen again.