Strong af­ter­shock shakes jit­tery Mex­ico

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Orsi, Maria Verza and Gisela Salomon

A 6.1-mag­ni­tude earth­quake adds to the mis­ery just days after a 7.1 quake killed hun­dreds.

Build­ings swayed in Mex­ico City, where nerves are still raw from Tues­day’s mag­ni­tude 7.1 quake that killed at least 305 across the re­gion.

A strong new MEX­ICO CITY — earth­quake shook Mex­ico on Satur­day, killing at least one per­son, top­pling al­ready dam­aged homes and a high­way bridge, and caus­ing new alarm in a coun­try reel­ing from two even more pow­er­ful quakes that to­gether have killed more than 400 peo­ple.

The U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said the new, mag­ni­tude 6.1 tem­blor was cen­tered about 11 miles south-south­east of Matías Romero in the state of Oax­aca, which was the re­gion most bat­tered by a mag­ni­tude 8.1 quake Sept. 7.

It was among thou­sands of af­ter­shocks recorded in the wake of that ear­lier quake, which was the most pow­er­ful to hit Mex­ico in 32 years and killed at least 96 peo­ple.

The govern­ment of Oax­aca state re­ported that some homes col­lapsed and one wo­man died when a wall of her home fell on her in the town of Asun­ción Ix­tal­te­pec.

Four peo­ple were in­jured in Ju­chitán and three in Tla­cote­pec, but none of their lives was in dan­ger. An­other per­son in the town of Xadani suf­fered a bro­ken clav­i­cle. Three ho­tels and two churches were dam­aged, and a high­way bridge col­lapsed. The Fed­eral Po­lice agency said the bridge al­ready had been closed due to dam­age after the Sept. 7 quake.

Bet­tina Cruz, a res­i­dent of Ju­chitán, said by phone with her voice still shak­ing that the new quake felt “hor­ri­ble.”

“Homes that were still stand­ing just fell down,” Cruz said. “It’s hard. We are all in the streets.”

Cruz be­longs to a so­cial col­lec­tive and said that when the shak­ing be­gan, she was rid­ing in a truck car­ry­ing sup­plies to vic­tims of the ear­lier quake.

Nataniel Hernán­dez said by phone from Ton­alá, in the south­ern state of Chi­a­pas, which was also hit hard by the ear­lier quake, that it was one of the strong­est af­ter­shocks he had felt.

“Since Sept. 7 it has not stopped shak­ing,” Hernán­dez said.

U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey geo­physi­cist Paul Caruso said the new tem­blor was an af­ter­shock of the 8.1 quake, and after a jolt of that size, even build­ings left stand­ing can be more vul­ner­a­ble.

“So a smaller earth­quake can cause the dam­aged build­ings to fail,” Caruso said.

“At the moment the great­est dam­age has been to the Ix­tal­te­pec bridge, which should be re­built, and struc­tures with pre­vi­ous dam­age that col­lapsed,” Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto tweeted.

He said govern­ment work­ers were fan­ning out in Ju­chitán to pro­vide help to any­one who needed it.

Jaime Hernán­dez, di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Elec­tri­cal Com­mis­sion, said the quake knocked out power to 327,000 homes and busi­nesses in Oax­aca, but ser­vice had been re­stored to 72 per­cent of cus­tomers within a few hours.

Build­ings swayed in Mex­ico City, where nerves are still raw from Tues­day’s mag­ni­tude 7.1 quake that killed at least 305 across the re­gion. Many res­i­dents and vis­i­tors fled homes, ho­tels and busi­nesses, some in tears.

At the Xoco Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, which is treat­ing the largest num­ber of quake vic­tims, work­ers ordered vis­i­tors to evac­u­ate when seis­mic alarms be­gan to blare.

That in­cluded Syn­tia Pereda, 43, who was re­luc­tant to leave the bed­side of her sleep­ing boyfriend. Jesús González, 49, who fell from a third-story bal­cony of a build­ing where he was work­ing dur­ing Tues­day’s quake, was await­ing surgery.

But she con­trolled her emo­tions, went out­side and came back when the shak­ing was over.

“We are get­ting used to this,” Pereda said. “Every so of­ten we hear the alarm .... You say, ‘Well, it is God’s will.’”

Ale­jan­dra Castel­lanos was on the sec­ond floor of a ho­tel in a cen­tral neigh­bor­hood of Mex­ico City and ran down the stairs and out­side with her hus­band.

“I was fright­ened be­cause I thought, not again!” Castel­lanos said.

Mayor Miguel Án­gel Mancera said there were no re­ports of sig­nif­i­cant new dam­age in the cap­i­tal, and res­cue ef­forts re­lated to Tues­day’s quake were con­tin­u­ing. He re­ported that two peo­ple died of ap­par­ent heart at­tacks dur­ing the lat­est tem­blor.

At the site of an of­fice build­ing that col­lapsed Tues­day and where an aroundthe-clock search for sur­vivors was con­tin­u­ing, res­cuers briefly evac­u­ated from atop the pile of rub­ble after the morn­ing quake be­fore re­turn­ing to work re­mov­ing con­crete, tiles and other de­bris.

As res­cue op­er­a­tions stretched into Day 5, res­i­dents through­out the cap­i­tal have held out hope that dozens still miss­ing might be found alive. More than half the dead — 167 — per­ished in the cap­i­tal, while 73 oth­ers died in the state of More­los, 45 in Pue­bla, 13 in Mex­ico State, six in Guer­rero and one in Oax­aca.

Along a 60-foot stretch of a bike lane in Mex­ico City, fam­i­lies hud­dled un­der tarps and do­nated blan­kets, await­ing word of loved ones trapped in the four-story-high pile of rub­ble be­hind them.

Lidia Al­bar­rán, whose niece was buried in the col­lapse of an of­fice build­ing a block away, heard the alarm and wor­ried that the lat­est quake could en­dan­ger those un­der the pile of rub­ble.

“You feel fear. Be­fore, earth­quakes did not make me afraid, but now ... think­ing about all that could have hap­pened in the build­ing ...,” Al­bar­rán said.

In a city still on edge, many res­i­dents have spo­ken of lin­ger­ing anx­i­ety: imag­in­ing the ground is mov­ing when it isn’t, hear­ing a po­lice siren wail and think­ing it’s a quake alarm, break­ing into sobs at un­ex­pected mo­ments.

“There is col­lec­tive panic. I feel afraid even when a car passes by,” said Dulce Bueno, who came Satur­day morn­ing with her hus­band and daugh­ter to the hard­hit Con­desa neigh­bor­hood.

They brought suit­cases to col­lect the be­long­ings of their daugh­ter, who lived in a dam­aged build­ing be­side one that col­lapsed and who is now mov­ing in with them.

“They have told us it is well-con­structed, that it’s a bunker,” Bueno said of her own home. “But if the tremors con­tinue, will it hold up?”

Vi­cente Apari­cio, 76, gazed at the build­ing where he lived in south­ern Mex­ico City as his wife lis­tened to an en­gi­neer ex­plain­ing the dam­age it had suf­fered. He vowed never to return; his fam­ily is for­tu­nate enough to have an­other apart­ment to go to and the means to go on with their lives.

“But what about those who do not?” Apari­cio won­dered.

He added: “How does a city re­cover from a shock like this?”

RE­BECCA BLACK­WELL / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Res­cue work­ers and vol­un­teers stand in the street Satur­day after an earth­quake alarm sounded and a small tremor was felt dur­ing res­cue op­er­a­tions at the site of a col­lapsed build­ing in Roma Norte in Mex­ico City. All res­cue work­ers atop the rub­ble were able to evac­u­ate safely via an ad­ja­cent build­ing.

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