Mex­ico’s dou­ble whammy of woe

Sunday News - - WORLD -

MEX­ICO CITY One of the most pow­er­ful earth­quakes ever recorded in Mex­ico is be­ing fol­lowed by a sec­ond na­tional emer­gency, with Hur­ri­cane Ka­tia mak­ing land­fall north of Teco­lutla in Ver­acruz state yes­ter­day amid in­tense rains.

The United States Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre said Ka­tia’s max­i­mum sus­tained winds had dropped to 120kmh, mak­ing it a Cat­e­gory 1 storm, but it was still ex­pected to bring life-threat­en­ing floods and a dan­ger­ous storm surge off the Gulf of Mex­ico.

Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto said in a tele­vised ad­dress that 61 peo­ple were killed by the quake – 45 in Oax­aca state, 12 in Chi­a­pas and four in Tabasco – and de­clared three days of na­tional mourn­ing.

The worst-hit city was Ju­chi­tan, on the nar­row waist of Oax­aca known as the Isth­mus, where 36 peo­ple died. About half of the city hall col­lapsed in a pile of rub­ble, and the streets were lit­tered with the de­bris of ru­ined houses.

A hos­pi­tal also col­lapsed, Pena Ni­eto said after tour­ing the city and meet­ing with res­i­dents. The pa­tients were re­lo­cated to other fa­cil­i­ties.

He said au­thor­i­ties were work­ing to re-es­tab­lish the sup­ply of wa­ter and food and pro­vide med­i­cal at­ten­tion to those who needed it. He vowed that the gov­ern­ment would help peo­ple re­build, and called for peo­ple to come to­gether.

‘‘The power of this earth­quake was dev­as­tat­ing, but we are cer­tain that the power of unity, the power of sol­i­dar­ity and the power of shared re­spon­si­bil­ity will be greater,’’ Pena Ni­eto said.

Fa­cades of shat­tered build­ings, fallen tiles and bro­ken glass from shop fronts and banks lit­tered the pave­ments of Ju­chi­tan while heav­ily armed sol­diers pa­trolled and stood guard at ar­eas cor­doned off due to the ex­tent of the dam­age.

Dalia Vasquez, a 55-year-old cook, said she watched emer­gency work­ers pull the bod­ies of her elderly neigh­bour and her mid­dleaged son from their col­lapsed home.

Her own house was badly da­m­aged. Fright­ened by the pos­si­bil­ity of af­ter­shocks, she said she planned to sleep with dozens more in the streets and parks.

‘‘We have noth­ing now. We don’t have any sav­ings,’’ she said.

‘‘It was bru­tal, bru­tal. It was like a mon­ster, like a train was pass­ing over our roofs,’’ said Je­sus Mendoza, 53, as he milled about in a park across from the da­m­aged town hall.

Alma Rosa, hold­ing a vigil with a rel­a­tive by the body of a loved one draped in a red shroud, said: ‘‘We went to buy a cof­fin, but there aren’t any be­cause there are so many bod­ies.’’

The cap­i­tal, Mex­ico City, REUTERS es­caped ma­jor dam­age, but the quake ter­ri­fied sleep­ing res­i­dents, many of whom still re­mem­ber the cat­a­strophic 1985 earth­quake that killed thou­sands and dev­as­tated large parts of the city.

Else­where, the ex­tent of the de­struc­tion was still emerg­ing. Hun­dreds of build­ings col­lapsed or were da­m­aged, power was cut to more than 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple, and au­thor­i­ties have closed schools in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

The In­te­rior Depart­ment re­ported that 428 homes were de­stroyed and 1700 da­m­aged in var­i­ous cities and towns in Chi­a­pas.

‘‘Homes made of clay tiles and wood col­lapsed,’’ said Nataniel Her­nan­dez, a hu­man rights worker liv­ing in Ton­ala, Chi­a­pas, who warned that the in­clement weather threat­ened to bring more down.

‘‘Right now it is rain­ing very hard in Ton­ala, and with the rains it gets much more com­pli­cated be­cause the homes were left very weak, with cracks.’’

The earth­quake hit off Chi­a­pas’s Pa­cific coast, near the Gu­atemalan bor­der, with a mag­ni­tude of 8.1 – equal to Mex­ico’s strong­est quake of the past cen­tury. It was slightly stronger than the 1985 quake, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said. The epi­cen­tre was in a seis­mic hotspot in the Pa­cific where one tec­tonic plate dives un­der an­other.

In neigh­bour­ing Gu­atemala, Pres­i­dent Jimmy Mo­rales ap­peared on na­tional tele­vi­sion to call for calm while emer­gency crews sur­veyed the dam­age. Of­fi­cials later said only four peo­ple had been in­jured and sev­eral dozen homes da­m­aged.

In Ver­acruz, tourists are aban­don­ing coastal ho­tels as winds and rains picked up ahead of Ka­tia’s ex­pected land­fall. Work­ers have set up emer­gency shel­ters and cleared storm drains, and res­i­dents are be­ing urged to avoid go­ing out­side or cross­ing flooded rivers. AP, Reuters

A man picks his way through the wreck­age of a house in Ju­chi­tan, the city worst hit by the mag­ni­tude 8.1 earth­quake that rocked Mex­ico on Fri­day. On the other side of the coun­try, Hur­ri­cane Ka­tia has made land­fall with winds of 120kmh and heavy rain.

An in­jured Ju­chi­tan res­i­dent re­trieves a blender from the kitchen of his house after it was de­stroyed by the quake.

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