In Oaxaca city, while nerves remain on edge, life is going on as usual with only a few signs of the recent earthquakes: Buildings years ago labeled “inmueble en mal estado” (property in a bad state) now sport yellow caution tape, as does Templo De La Virgen De Las Nieves, which has a huge crack along one of the bell towers. And, on my block, a plywood retaining wall has been erected to contain a wall that collapsed back in 2012.
Those atrapada (trapped) by the September 7th and September 19th earthquakes have mostly been rescued, though réplicas (aftershocks) continue daily, especially in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — still in the 4 to 4.5 on the Richter Scale (though not felt in Oaxaca city). Damnificados (victims) and escombros (debris) are all that remain in the hardest hit areas but tens of thousands of people are being forced…
Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The motto is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” I’m a little underwhelmed with that statement. In general, the idea is that you, as an American (because only Americans are prepared), should take the month of September and review your overall preparedness for a variety of disaster scenarios. The government has even so kindly provided a calendar to help you freak out all year round–oh I mean think constructively about your action plan during a disaster throughout the year, not freak out.
Be that as it may, there are some situations that are totally unexpected or the severity of the disaster is woefully underestimated. Mexico was hit by several of these this month and the month isn’t even over yet.
Beginning with Tropical Storm Lidia on September 1 which resulted in 7 deaths when it made landfall in Baja California Sur. Two of the deaths were a result of electrocution from downed power lines. Two deaths were drownings, one a woman who was swept down a flooded street and a baby who was wrenched from its mother’s arms while crossing a flooded area. Rains from the tropical storm caused havoc as far inland as Mexico City where flooding caused a 33 ft wide, 23 ft deep sinkhole and the collapse of El Angulo dam.
Then on September 8, Mexico and Guatemala experienced the most powerful earthquake in a century, measured at a magnitude of 8.2. To date, there are at least 90 reported deaths as a result of the earthquake in Mexico. In Tabasco, two children were killed, one when a wall collapsed and the other after the hospital lost power and the child’s respirator stopped. Oaxaca, specifically the area of Juchitán, was the hardest hit.
“It is a nightmare we weren’t prepared for,” said a member of the City Council, Pamela Teran, in an interview with a local radio station. She estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the houses in the city were destroyed.“A lot of people have lost everything, and it just breaks your heart,” she added, bursting into tears. (Mexico Earthquake, Strongest in a Century, Kills Dozens)
As a result of the earthquake, a tsunami warning was issued for the coasts of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Over the next several days, the already devastated area was hit was multiple aftershocks, with at least 6 measuring above a 5.0 in magnitude.
Also on September 8, Hurricane Katia made landfall near Tecolutla, Veracruz. A state of emergency was declared in 40 municipalities in the area due to heavy flooding and mudslides.
On September 14, Hurricane Max made landfall in Guerrero, near Acapulco, sinking 6 ships off the coast, destroying more than 1,500 homes and causing major flooding and deadly mudslides.
Thousands and thousands of families have lost everything this month in Mexico. Reportedly 300,000 homes were damaged or completely destroyed as a result of the earthquake on September 8. No definite number of homes destroyed by hurricanes or subsequent earthquakes.
Map of damaged and destroyed buildings in Mexico City after the September 19, 2017 earthquake.