Mexico Rushes Aid to Millions After Huge Quake; Death Toll at 96
Apowerful earthquake that struck Mexico last week has left some 2.5 million people in need of aid and killed 96 others, authorities said on Monday, as officials rushed to get food and water to afflicted communities in the poor south.
The earthquake triggered a 1-meter-high tsunami, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, but there were no reports of tsunami damage.
The quake was felt as far away as Mexico City and Guatemala City. Residents of the Mexican capital fled into the streets, many in their pajamas, for fear buildings would collapse.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has said the earthquake was bigger than a 1985 earthquake in the country that killed thousands. In a televised address Friday evening, he declared three days of national mourning and promised that the government will help rebuild.
Teams of soldiers and federal police armed with shovels and sledgehammers fanned out across neighborhoods to help demolish damaged buildings. Other groups distributed boxes of food.
"The power of this earthquake was devastating," Pena Nieto said, but added that Mexico's response "will be greater."
Slow-moving funeral processions converged on Juchitan's cemeteries from all directions on Saturday, so many that they sometimes caused temporary gridlock when they met at intersections. The graveyard swelled with mourners and blaring serenades for the dead — the sounds of snare drums, saxophones and sobbing.
Pallbearers carried the caskets around rubble the quake had knocked from the simple concrete crypts. Jittery amid continued aftershocks, friends and relatives of the deceased had hushed conversations in the Zapotec language as they stood under umbrellas for shade from the beating sun.
Paulo Cesar Escamilla Matus and his family held a memorial service for his mother, Reynalda Matus Martinez, in the living room of her home, where relatives quietly wept beside her body.
The 64-year-old woman was working the night shift at a neighborhood pharmacy when the quake struck Thursday night, collapsing the building.
"All the weight of the second floor fell on top of her," said her son, who rushed to the building and found her under rubble. He and neighbors tried to dig her out, but weren't able to recover her body until the next morning when civil defense workers brought a backhoe that could lift what had trapped her.
Rescuers searched for survi-
vors with sniffer dogs and used heavy machinery at the main square to pull rubble away from city hall, where a missing police officer was believed to be inside.
Oaxaca state governor Alejandro Murat told local television that preliminary reports showed that at least 12,000 homes were damaged, and warned the number was likely to rise.
Murat said 1 million people in Oaxaca needed food, water, electricity and help rebuilding damaged homes, while in neighboring Chiapas state, which was closest to the epicenter of the tremor, 1.5 million people were affected, according to officials.
"We are united in facing this humanitarian crisis," Murat said.
The 8.1-magnitude quake off the coast of Chiapas rattled Mexico City and sowed destruction across the narrowest portion of Mexico on the isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Humberto Cruz stands inside his house destroyed by the earthquake that struck the southern coast of Mexico late on Thursday, in Ixtaltepec, Mexico, Sept. 10, 2017.