Earthquake damage in southern Mexico. Earthquake damage in southern Mexico.

Quake victim tally now at 300,000: EPN

200,000 in Chiapas, 100,000 in Oaxaca is current count

An estimated 300,000 people have been identified as victims of the September 7 earthquake that devastated parts of southern Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto said yesterday, but the figure represents a significant reduction from the initial tally and rebuilding efforts are expected to start soon.

At a meeting at an air force base in Chiapas to assess the damage, Peña Nieto said that while the census had not yet been completed it was estimated that 200,000 people in Chiapas and 100,000 in Oaxaca had been affected.

Resumption of water and electrical service reduced the number of people affected from an initial high of 2 million people, he said.

Accompanied by cabinet secretaries and state Governor Manuel Velasco, the president also indicated an announcement would be made next week about government plans and specific support mechanisms to rebuild or repair damaged homes.

“This week we expect to have the most objective, most realistic information about how many homes were affected and from there we’ll start the reconstruction plan,” Peña Nieto told affected residents.

Many of them are in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca where the devastated town of Juchitán is located.

Agrarian Development and Urban Planning Secretary Rosario Robles said that a census there had already identified 31,519 affected homes in its 41 municipalities.

The federal government will not be undertaking the massive rebuilding stage on its own.

Peña Nieto said that the private sector will also contribute to the reconstruction of affected communities indicating that he had met with 120 business leaders this week and they pledged their support for the rebuilding efforts.

He also suggested that programs would be put in place to offer temporary work to affected residents to enable them to contribute to the rebuilding of their homes with materials supplied by the federal government.

Older residents, however, would receive federal government support, he stressed.

The president’s words got a mixed reception from those present. Some applauded but others exclaimed, “It’s about time,” while many more listened in silence.

He asked affected residents to “make sure” that government support reaches those who really need it.

Peña Nieto also said that he would return to affected municipalities in Chiapas and Oaxaca to stay abreast of “work that all areas of government are doing.”

Some affected residents have accused local officials of hoarding aid but Peña Nieto insisted he would be closely watching the work of 10,000 officials in Oaxaca and 7,000 in Chiapas to ensure that the government is fulfilling its responsibility.

“. . . the master’s eye makes the horse fat,” he quipped.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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