Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

At least 66 killed after Mexico hit by earthquake and hurricane

Mexicans have begun mourning some of the 66 people killed after a powerful earthquake and a Gulf coast hurricane hit the country.

Hardest hit was Juchitan, a Oaxaca state city where 36 people died when the magnitude 8.1 quake toppled buildings.

Slow-moving funeral processions converged on one of Juchitan's cemeteries from all directions on Saturday sometimes causing temporary gridlock when they encountered each other at intersections.

The cemetery swelled with mourners and noisy serenades for the dead.

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 neighbourhood pharmacy when the quake struck on 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 neighbours tried to dig her out, but were not able to recover her body until the next morning when civil defence workers brought an excavator that could lift what had trapped her.

Fearful of crime, the pharmacy kept its doors locked, and Mr Escamilla Matus wondered if that had cost his mother the time she needed to escape.

Scenes of mourning were repeated over and over again in Juchitan, where a third of the city's homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, President Enrique Pena Nieto said late on Friday in an interview with the Televisa news network.

Part of the city hall collapsed.

The remains of brick walls and clay tile roofs cluttered streets as families dragged mattresses onto sidewalks to spend a second anxious night sleeping outdoors.

Some were newly homeless, while others feared further aftershocks could topple their cracked adobe dwellings.

Rescuers searched for survivors 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.

The city's civil defence co-ordinator Jose Antonio Marin Lopez said similar searches had been going on all over the area.

Teams found bodies in the rubble, but the highlight was pulling four people, including two children, alive from the completely collapsed Hotel Del Rio, where one woman died.

"The priority continues to be the people," Mr Marin Lopez said.

Larissa Garcia Ruiz was grateful to escape with only a broken arm when her house collapsed as she and her family slept.

"I only woke up when I heard screaming," said the 24-year-old cradling her wrapped arm.

Her mother managed to just push the daughters and her blind husband through the back doorway before a massive section of thick wall fell, trapping her.

As Larissa tried to help rescue her mother, another piece of rubble fell, breaking her arm. Other relatives and friends finally managed to release the trapped woman.

All around them people yelled for help that night.

"Nobody helped us," her sister Vicenta said. "Everybody got out as best they could."

In addition to the deaths in Juchitan, dozens more people were killed by the quake in neighbouring states, while t wo others died in a mudslide in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz after Hurricane Katia hit late on Friday.

Mr Pena Nieto said authorities were working to re-establish supplies of water and food and provide medical attention to those who need it. He vowed the government would help rebuild.

Power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people due to the quake, and authorities closed schools in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

The Interior Department reported that 428 homes were destroyed and 1,700 were damaged just in Chiapas, the state closest to the epicentre.

Just one day later, Hurricane Katia hit land north of Tecolutla in Veracruz state, pelting the region with intense rains and maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

AP

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph