Build­ing warn­ings ig­nored be­fore quake

Tampa Bay Times - - Nation & World -

MEX­ICO CITY — A Mex­ico City bor­ough pres­i­dent said of­fi­cials from a pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion ig­nored warn­ings that unau­tho­rized con­struc­tion work on a school that col­lapsed dur­ing a pow­er­ful earth­quake had hurt the build­ing’s struc­tural in­tegrity.

Mean­while the death toll from the mag­ni­tude 7.1 quake which hit Sept. 19 jumped by 10 to 355 on Fri­day, as the search con­tin­ued for bodies in the de­bris of some downed build­ings.

The En­rique Reb­samen school be­came a sym­bol of the tragedy when a three-story wing of the build­ing pan­caked, killing 26 peo­ple in­clud­ing 19 chil­dren. Pho­tos over the years sug­gested an in­creas­ingly heavy fourth story had been grad­u­ally added to the wing.

Bor­ough pres­i­dent Clau­dia Shein­baum said late Thurs­day that in­spec­tors is­sued a re­port in Novem­ber 2013 and warned the bor­ough’s ju­di­cial di­rec­tor at the time that work on the third floor and il­le­gally added fourth floor were “dam­ag­ing struc­tural el­e­ments that af­fect the sta­bil­ity of the build­ing.”

The pri­vately op­er­ated ele­men­tary and mid­dle school was ap­par­ently al­lowed to com­plete the work by pay­ing a fine equiv­a­lent to about $1,600 at the time.

“The file was closed, with a fine of 21,000 pe­sos. Out­ra­geous,” Shein­baum said. She added that she has filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint against the former ju­di­cial di­rec­tor, a per­son who held the same post later and “who­ever else may be re­spon­si­ble.”

Shein­baum, who took of­fice in 2015, had said ear­lier there was unau­tho­rized ex­pan­sion work at the school since around 2010.

An­other bor­ough closer to the city cen­ter also filed crim­i­nal com­plaints against two de­vel­op­ers for two build­ings that par­tially or com­pletely col­lapsed, killing at least three peo­ple. The bor­ough of Ben­ito Juarez ac­cused the two firms of hav­ing “used low-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als, ly­ing and evad­ing the law.”

One of the build­ings was only about a year old and ad­ver­tised its apart­ments as be­ing struc­turally sound and quak­ere­sis­tant. The other, a six story rental apart­ment build­ing, was ap­par­ently built in the last year atop the un­re­in­forced struc­ture of a decades-old four-story build­ing.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the col­lapses and deaths oc­curred in build­ings con­structed un­der looser reg­u­la­tions prior to a 1985 quake that killed thou­sands in Mex­ico City.

How­ever the three build­ings cited in the crim­i­nal com­plaints in­volved more re­cent con­struc­tion. The school was started in 1983 but then ex­panded in the last decade.

Most of the rub­ble has been cleared away from the 38 sites where build­ings col­lapsed in the cap­i­tal, leav­ing only a few ac­tive re­cov­ery ef­forts.

Na­tional Civil De­fense chief Luis Felipe Puente re­ported Fri­day on Twit­ter that the quake’s toll had risen to 355, in­clud­ing 214 dead in Mex­ico City.

There were also fa­tal­i­ties in the states of More­los, Pue­bla, Mex­ico State, Guer­rero and Oax­aca.

Memo­ri­als have be­gun to pop up on side­walks, on me­dian strips and amid the brick dust and rub­ble of build­ings as Mex­ico City be­gins to come to terms with its losses.

It is part of a process of griev­ing, re­mem­ber­ing and pay­ing homage to the vic­tims as well as the vol­un­teers and first re­spon­ders who toiled for days to res­cue sur­vivors and re­cover the bodies of the peo­ple who died.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Po­lice of­fi­cers in­spect a part of the En­rique Reb­samen school that col­lapsed dur­ing last week’s 7.1 mag­ni­tude earth­quake.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.