Cracks have appeared in many homes; some are in danger of collapsing. Cracks have appeared in many homes; some are in danger of collapsing.

Victims twice over in not so ‘model’ estate

Hurricane victims were promised high-quality construction, but they didn't get it

Four years after Hurricane Ingrid and tropical storm Manuel battered the southern state of Guerrero, some residents affected by the disasters have become victims for a second time.

Torrential rains that accompanied the two storms, which struck almost simultaneously in September 2013, affected 16,776 homes. Some were damaged beyond repair, leaving their occupants homeless.

Part of the federal government response was to fund the construction of a new residential development on the outskirts of the state capital Chilpancingo. Private companies were awarded lucrative contracts to complete work that was paid for out of a 20-billion-peso (US $1 billion at today’s exchange rate) federal reconstruction program called the New Guerrero Plan.

But just two years after the first victims moved into their new homes in the Nuevo Mirador estate, poor construction work has left some houses uninhabitable while others are seemingly on the brink of collapse.

Large rifts have opened between walls and one section of the development has slid 11 centimeters towards the adjoining block, creating fear that some houses could fall onto neighboring homes. Cracks have also appeared in walls and the floors of many homes have developed severe slopes.

One affected resident and twice-struck victim is Ana María Montan, who moved into a home in the development with her family in December 2015.

Montan recalled that when they first arrived, the former head of the federal Secretariat of Agrarian Development and Urban Planning (Sedatu) in Guerrero assured them that the homes had been built to high quality standards.

“. . . He [Héctor Vicario Castrejón] said that we were going to live much better, that this was going to be a model estate . . . because that’s what President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered,” she said.

But now, at least 32 of the homes will have to be demolished because, according to a July 2016 ruling by the Guerrero Civil Protection office, the concrete slabs on which they were built “do not guarantee their stability.”

The newspaper Milenio described the slabs as being like “ice rinks.” If the houses continue to shift, the families living there would be placed “in a situation of high risk,” the ruling concluded.

Sixty-four homes are built on the unstable slab and Montan is afraid that one could come toppling down on her own home at any moment.

“Now I don’t know if I feel like a beneficiary . . . or I’m still a victim,” she said.

The company that won the contract to pour the slabs, Servicios en Concreto Maza, was paid almost 25 million pesos (US $1.3 million) while the company that built the homes, Casaflex, was awarded four contracts worth a total of 145.8 million pesos (US $7.6 million).

Casaflex is currently facing criminal complaints filed by Sedatu with the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR), both for responsibility for the poor construction of the homes as well as charging for work that it didn’t complete.

But according to the current head of Sedatu in Guerrero, the company has denied any responsibility and argued instead that the firm that laid the concrete slabs is to blame for the problems.

Before the estate was built, former federal Environment Secretariat Juan José Guerra Abud warned that the land was not suitable for construction. As a result, part of the project was suspended and only 598 homes were built instead of the 1,100 that had been planned.

A school, health care clinic and connection to the water supply have also not materialized.

In August, Vicario Castrejón was disqualified from holding public office for 10 years by the Secretariat of Public Administration after the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) uncovered irregularities in the purchase of the land to build houses for the hurricane victims.

But for victims struck first by nature and now by shoddy workmanship, the punishment is nothing more than cold comfort.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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