Catastrophe in Mexico

Without doubt Mexico is living a catastrophe. It’s interesting because our disaster is not making waves around the world like others do but the situation here is critical. And today is the 28th anniversary of the massive earthquake that rocked and destroyed large parts of Mexico City, back in 1985.

But back to now. Hurricane Ingrid cut a swathe through Veracruz and Tamaulipas, rivers have overflowed, homes have been washed away, belongings lost. Tropical storm Manuel banged into Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero and left dreadful damage. Acapulco is still isolated, and people are still trying to get out. Our designer E is still there and is waiting for the motorway to open again. He may get lucky by the weekend. Acapulco airport had chest high water flowing through the terminal and in fact it is still inoperable. Flights have been ferrying people from the military base to Mexico City, free of charge and so far about 10,000 people have managed to get out. Needless to say there are the usual stories of the well-to-do getting preferential treatment while everyone else has to queue up and wait. This is what happens, this is reality. Meanwhile, the supermarkets are nearly empty and there have even been cases of ransacking shops for luxury items. Manuel went out to sea and was downgraded then it got stronger and turned into a hurricane and headed back inland hitting Sinaloa and Sonora, where it is still hovering today. People are being evacuated all over the place; the damage will be significant there too, without a doubt. That’s the very short version of what happening on the coasts. Meanwhile, the two storms met in the middle of the country and hurled huge quantities of water on to the states of Morelos, Mexico City, Estado de México, Puebla, etc.

80 people have died so far; another 58 have disappeared under a landslide. A whole family was wiped out in their car as they were driving to Acapulco; a whole hillside fell on to their vehicle. There are many stories like that and they just keep coming. We had a lot of rain, as I mentioned before, but nothing that put our lives at risk. We were lucky, quite frankly, but others are having a terrible time.
The motorway to Acapulco, the famous Autopista del Sol, has for years been a dangerous road to drive along. Feted as a feat of engineering back in the days of Salinas the motorway has always had problems of subsidence and landslides, right from the moment it opened. The construction obviously left a lot to be desired and we are seeing the consequences now. Money, or lack of money, has always been at the root of this road, which was a disaster waiting to happen. Well, now it’s happened. Of course there are a myriad other roads that are impassable, people are working round the clock to reopen them all.

While coping with the weather disaster the authorities today could not ignore the anniversary of the earthquake that in 1985 rocked the centre of the country, and the President took part in a solemn ceremony in Mexico City today, with a minute of silence and the national anthem. Also, a “macrosimulacro” or practice took place today, in the case of the next big one, and loads of people had to evacuate all the tall buildings in the centre of Mexico City, offices, hotels, shops, businesses, etc. If there was a lesson that was learnt it was the importance of building earthquake proof buildings. Back in 1985 there were very few; today, there are a lot. 

The earthquake happened just after 7 am, it had a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale and they say that the energy that was released during this tremor was equivalent to 1,114 atomic bombs (of 20 kilotons each) going off. The following day there was a replica of 7.3 on the scale, which caused even more problems, and collapsed even more buildings.  There have always been arguments about the true number of people who were killed (the government was accused of hushing up the real figures) but we are talking of tens and tens of thousands. 4,000 people were rescued from the rubble, and more than 30,000 buildings were destroyed. Another 68,000 were seriously damaged (thanks to El Excelsior newspaper for this information). Bodies were laid out in a baseball stadium; it was a truly dreadful event. Everyone remembers it.

So today is not a good day. Soon, once Manuel eventually disappears, there will be final estimations of damage, loss of life, damage to agricultural crops, loss of housing and belongings, among many other things. There are already lots of collection centres where members of the public can donate food, water and blankets to be sent to the different areas. The recovery will be a slow process, the cost enormous. There hasn’t been anything like this sort of storm for more than 50 years. 


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