Mexico quake destroys homes

This week's strong quake in Mexico has left up to 30,000 people homeless.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | January 23, 2003

This week's strong quake in Mexico has left up to 30,000 people homeless, according to both government reports and early assessments by relief groups.

Damage tallies continued Friday after Mexico's 7.8 earthquake Tuesday, the largest temblor there since 1985.

Many people have sought refuge in relatives' homes, reported Samuel Lobato of the Church World Service (CWS) office in Mexico City.

Lobato was meeting with local officials Friday to assess unmet needs.

The quake killed more than 25 people and injured some 300. It was centered in the Pacific coastal state of Colima and was felt in 13 other states.

The full extent of damage will not be known until small rural villages are reached in the coming hours and days.

Action by Churches Together (ACT), a global coalition of faith-based relief agencies, was working with CWS to assess damages. "CWS is making contact with local organizations in the states of Colima and Jalisco to compare the damages against local response capabilities and thus better identify international aid needs, which will be communicated to ACT as soon as possible," reported ACT spokesperson Callie Long.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) also had field staff on the ground to assess damages. CRS reported that the four hardest-hit towns were Colima, Coquimatlan, Comala and Tecoman. People there were left without power and natural gas in some areas, and clusters of poorly-supported adobe and brick houses were damaged or destroyed.

CRS was working with Caritas Mexicana and the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral to respond to people's immediate needs.

“In cooperation with local authorities and other aid agencies, the first priority will be to provide immediate relief to victims in the form of temporary shelter, food, water, and medical aid,” said Jed Hoffman, CRS regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Further assessments will then need to be made about the extent of the damage and losses of homes.”

Initial U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports estimated severe damage. "Because of the size of the earthquake and its shallow depth, USGS is expecting substantial damage," said USGS spokesman Butch Kinerney in a prepared statement.

The Colima area suffered from a powerful earthquake in 1995, a magnitude 8 temblor that killed 49 people.

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