Earthquake recovery continues in Mexico

Disaster recovery groups are working to help people in Mexico get their lives back to normal.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | February 5, 2003

The Jan. 22 earthquake that struck the Pacific coastal state Colima, Mexico killed at least 23 people, injured more than 300 and destroyed about 2,000 homes and damaged about 10,000 more.

A total of 13 Mexican states were affected by the quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale (or 7.8, according to the U.S. Geological Survey), and tremors were felt as far away as Corpus Christi, Houston and El Paso, Texas. Another, smaller quake, this one registering 5.8, followed hard on the heels of the first.

Relief groups, including Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as well as Caritas Mexicana and the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral, are working to help people get their lives back to normal, especially the estimated 10,000 people left homeless.

While most basic services were restored to 98 percent of the affected areas in Colima within three days of the quake, according to a Jan. 28 report issued by Samuel Lobato of Church World Service, about $50 million (in U.S. currency) will be necessary to repair and reconstruct homes in the states of Colima and Jalisco.

There is considerable damage to clean up, added Matt Felice, a spokesman for CRS. In the dozen communities surrounding the city of Colima, as much as 70 percent of the homes there were damaged by the quake.

CRS has made a start toward fulfilling that need: on Jan. 27 it announced that $20,000 in funding will be allocated for relief efforts here.

According to Lobato's report, the Mexican government will pay out more than $10 million, and some foreign governments, including Japan and the United States, are helping out as well. (Japan pledged $100,000 in equipment, and the U.S. has sent $50,000 and USAID workers).

But despite the pledges of support, some are concerned that the aid might not reach the victims, Lobato wrote. For Colima is not only dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake, it is also in the middle of an election.

"Due to the electoral process currently in progress in Colima," he wrote, "it was decided that the [Mexican] Army will deliver the material aid in order to prevent manipulation...The existence of wide corruption caused many people to doubt whether the resources announced would actually reach the victims and that the reconstruction efforts would not be eventually used for election purposes...There are various civil organizations and church/faith groups interested in responding and reacting to the earthquake. It just appears that the government wants to monopolize all the actions, excluding all the spectrum of civil society."

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