JUCHITAN, Sep 11: Life for many has moved outdoors in the quake-shocked city of Juchitan, where a third of the homes are reported uninhabitable and repeated aftershocks have scared people away from many structures still standing.
The city yesterday was littered with rubble from Thursday night’s magnitude 8.1 earthquake, which killed at least 90 people across southern Mexico at least three dozen of them in Juchitan itself.
Officials in Oaxaca and Chiapas states said thousands of houses and hundreds of schools had been damaged or destroyed.
Hundreds of thousands of people were reported to be without water service.
Many people continued to sleep outside, fearful of more collapses, as strong aftershocks continued to rattle the town, including a magnitude 5.2 jolt yesterday.
Some Juchitecos seeking solace trekked through the destruction to find an open-air Mass on Sunday since many of the churches were either damaged or left vacant until they could be checked.
On Sunday evening, Bishop Oscar Campos Contreras conducted Mass for about 200 people at an open-air basketball court next to a collapsed school and in front of the heavily damaged St. Vicente Ferrer church, which lost one bell tower and very nearly the other.
Campos told those gathered that Mass would continue to be held outdoors for the foreseeable future, “because here we feel safer.”
Friends and family embraced and cried, overcome with emotion stored for days.
The bishop’s homily was part lesson and part pep talk for a community stunned by the destruction.
“There is no one who can say: ‘Nothing happened to me because of my money, because of my strength or my youth or my prestige or my fame nothing happened,'” Campos said. “We are all weak.”
Yesenia Cruz Jimenez was relieved to hear Mass would be held outdoors. Her house broke apart and her family is still sleeping in the yard, suffering rain and aftershocks.
“There is nowhere safe in town,” she said. “It is safer here and people can concentrate better in this place.”
Local officials said they had counted nearly 800 aftershocks of all sizes since the big quake, and the US Geological Survey counted nearly 60 with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater.
Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat said Sunday that the death toll in his state had risen to 71, while officials have reported 19 killed in Chiapas and Tabasco states.
Juchitan’s downtown streets grew increasingly congested Sunday as dump trucks and heavy equipment hauled away debris and pushed smaller piles of debris into larger mountains of rubble. AP