Recovery efforts in quake-damaged Mexican town

JUCHITAN, Mexico (AP) – Relief supplies and cleanup crews began arriving in earnest in this city in southern Mexico, two days after a devastating earthquake killed 37 – more than half the nationwide total.

Government cargo planes delivered much-needed supplies and the military began distributing boxes of food, though many residents of this city in a region of Oaxaca state known as the Isthmus complained that progress was slow and they hadn’t yet received assistance.

Teams of soldiers and federal police armed with shovels and sledgehammers fanned out across neighbourhoods to assist in demolition of damaged buildings. Dump trucks choked some narrow streets as they began hauling away the many tonnes of rubble.

Maria de Lourdes Quintana Lopez said she couldn’t wait for the government’s assistance as she oversaw the demolition of her family candy business’ warehouse.

“We have to work so that we’re not overcome with sadness,” Quintana said. “We’re not going to wait for the government to do what it has to do.”

A view of a partially collapsed hotel in Matias Romero, Oaxaca state, Mexico. – AP

Work by residents to clear the streets and lots that held their collapsed homes Saturday was slowed by aftershocks throughout the day. The 8.1 magnitude earthquake claimed 65 lives in Mexico, but nowhere more than Juchitan.

There were so many deaths that slow-moving funeral processions caused temporary gridlock at intersections as they converged on the city’s cemeteries from all directions.

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 Friday. Part of the city hall collapsed.

On the outskirts of the city, the general hospital continued to settle into its temporary home – a school gymnasium with gurneys parked atop the basketball court. The earthquake rendered the hospital uninhabitable, so the gym contained a mix of patients that pre-dated the quake and those who suffered injuries as a result of it.