The debate over whether there was a fire at the Cocula garbage dump on the night of September 26-27 last year, in which authorities say 43 missing students were incinerated, continues this week.
There was no fire at the dump, independent investigators looking into the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa insisted at a press conference on Monday, citing evidence in the form of satellite imagery of the area on the night in question.
The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) also pointed out that weather records show 21.8 millimeters of rainfall was recorded in Iguala between 1:00am and 4:00am on the 27th, although the cities are 22 kilometers apart and a mountain lies between them.
“The investigation has proved that there were no fires at the Cocula dump. Satellite imagery can capture day and nighttime fires, but none were registered in that zone. This development allows us to focus our search for the students in other places,” said GIEI member Alejandro Valencia.
But a specialist in geomatics, the gathering and processing of geographic information, said yesterday that cloud cover over Cocula would have made it impossible to see a fire had there been one. In addition, he said, there is only one satellite that could have photographed the area and it only does so at about noon each day.
Guillermo Martínez, of the Loyola University of the Pacific in Acapulco, said photos taken by the NASA satellite Terra I show cloud cover Cocula on both days. Had there been a fire, he said, it would have been impossible to see it.
The GIEI was appointed earlier this year by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate the Iguala-Ayotzinapa case, and in September released its report, a highly critical assessment of the investigation by federal authorities. It also offered a number of recommendations, including a new probe into the Cocula garbage dump because it said then there had been no fire.
On Monday, it said such a probe was no longer necessary, given the satellite evidence.
The Attorney General’s office, however, did not agree and asked the GIEI to avoid reaching early conclusions, observing that satellite imagery and weather conditions should not be considered in isolation and that other elements must be taken into account.
Among those elements will be the results of a new examination of the garbage dump by nine international fire experts, work that is expected to begin soon.
The GIEI’s earlier conclusion regarding the fire, based on a consultant’s findings, was refuted soon after by two experts who had studied fires and their effects on the human body. Further debate can be expected.