6 months after Mexico quake some still camp outside homes

 
 
Updated 3/19/2018 5:48 PM
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  • In this March 14, 2018 photo, members of the Marquez family talk outside the temporary shelter where seven children and four adults from the family are living in a park, six months after an earthquake damaged the Multifamiliares Tlalpan housing complex, toppling one building, killing nine people, and leaving around 300 families in housing limbo waiting for the rest of the buildings to be either repaired or condemned, in Mexico City. Most residents have moved in with relatives or friends, but those remaining are gradually receiving some housing help in the form of temporary one-room shelters built with plywood or with wooden pallets covered by polycarbonate by the Practical Architecture Consultancy (known by its Spanish acronym CAP) and the nonprofit Techo.

    In this March 14, 2018 photo, members of the Marquez family talk outside the temporary shelter where seven children and four adults from the family are living in a park, six months after an earthquake damaged the Multifamiliares Tlalpan housing complex, toppling one building, killing nine people, and leaving around 300 families in housing limbo waiting for the rest of the buildings to be either repaired or condemned, in Mexico City. Most residents have moved in with relatives or friends, but those remaining are gradually receiving some housing help in the form of temporary one-room shelters built with plywood or with wooden pallets covered by polycarbonate by the Practical Architecture Consultancy (known by its Spanish acronym CAP) and the nonprofit Techo. Associated Press

  • In this March 13, 2018 photo, Luz Maria Alvarez Lopez, 51, fetches clothing from her apartment inside the earthquake damaged building at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Six months after the September quake, dozens of the building's residents are still sleeping in two tent camps in the street outside, awaiting word on whether the building can be repaired or whether it will need to be torn down. With no definitive answer on the building's safety, the residents only enter to use the bathroom and recover stored belongings.

    In this March 13, 2018 photo, Luz Maria Alvarez Lopez, 51, fetches clothing from her apartment inside the earthquake damaged building at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Six months after the September quake, dozens of the building's residents are still sleeping in two tent camps in the street outside, awaiting word on whether the building can be repaired or whether it will need to be torn down. With no definitive answer on the building's safety, the residents only enter to use the bathroom and recover stored belongings. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 6, 2018 photo, kids play with a new go-kart in a tent camp outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18, where they have been living with their families since a September quake left thousands displaced in Mexico City. In the past six months, the hundreds of people living in small tent camps around the city have faced seasonal rains, winter chills and recent heat. One family with three daughters had to move out of the Independencia camp after the youngest was hospitalized with pneumonia.

    In this Jan. 6, 2018 photo, kids play with a new go-kart in a tent camp outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18, where they have been living with their families since a September quake left thousands displaced in Mexico City. In the past six months, the hundreds of people living in small tent camps around the city have faced seasonal rains, winter chills and recent heat. One family with three daughters had to move out of the Independencia camp after the youngest was hospitalized with pneumonia. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, children sleep in a shelter built against the external wall of a house, in a tent camp outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Despite living in the street, daily life continues, with children attending school and adults heading to work daily. Residents say security in the neighborhood is a problem, and one reported occasionally hearing gunshots in the night.

    In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, children sleep in a shelter built against the external wall of a house, in a tent camp outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Despite living in the street, daily life continues, with children attending school and adults heading to work daily. Residents say security in the neighborhood is a problem, and one reported occasionally hearing gunshots in the night. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, Luz Maria Alvarez Lopez, 50, is reflected in the small mirror which adorns her apartment's front door along with a simple reed cross, in the earthquake damaged building at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Alvarez has lived in the building for 29 years and her family was occupying four of its 37 apartments.

    In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, Luz Maria Alvarez Lopez, 50, is reflected in the small mirror which adorns her apartment's front door along with a simple reed cross, in the earthquake damaged building at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Alvarez has lived in the building for 29 years and her family was occupying four of its 37 apartments. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, clothing hangs to dry in a tent camp where teenagers pass the time looking at a cell phone outside the earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 residence at night in Mexico City. Six months on from the quake, neighboring residents have been collecting signatures for a petition to have the pair of tent camps at Independencia removed from the narrow street, which has been blocked since September.

    In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, clothing hangs to dry in a tent camp where teenagers pass the time looking at a cell phone outside the earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 residence at night in Mexico City. Six months on from the quake, neighboring residents have been collecting signatures for a petition to have the pair of tent camps at Independencia removed from the narrow street, which has been blocked since September. Associated Press

  • In this March 13, 2018 photo, 7-year-old Kaled Haebran Rivera watches videos on a cell phone inside the tent where he lives with his family outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Recently a donor contributed a half dozen larger weather-proof tents which have improved conditions for some of the families living in the camp.

    In this March 13, 2018 photo, 7-year-old Kaled Haebran Rivera watches videos on a cell phone inside the tent where he lives with his family outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Recently a donor contributed a half dozen larger weather-proof tents which have improved conditions for some of the families living in the camp. Associated Press

  • In this March 14, 2018 photo, vendor Maria Patricia Rodriguez Gonzalez packs up her wares to bring them in for the night, at the tent camp where she has been living with her family for the last six months, outside her earthquake-damaged residence at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Before the earthquake, Rodriguez sold dry goods, soda and candy out of a shop inside the ground-floor apartment where she had lived for 27 years. "It makes us sad that people insult us without knowing the reality we are living," Rodriguez said. "We're not here because we want to be. We're here out of necessity."

    In this March 14, 2018 photo, vendor Maria Patricia Rodriguez Gonzalez packs up her wares to bring them in for the night, at the tent camp where she has been living with her family for the last six months, outside her earthquake-damaged residence at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Before the earthquake, Rodriguez sold dry goods, soda and candy out of a shop inside the ground-floor apartment where she had lived for 27 years. "It makes us sad that people insult us without knowing the reality we are living," Rodriguez said. "We're not here because we want to be. We're here out of necessity." Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, a boy living with his family in a tent camp in the street fetches his bike from inside the earthquake-damaged building at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Despite worries about the building's stability, residents need to enter daily to use the bathroom, shower, and retrieve stored belongings.

    In this Jan. 5, 2018 photo, a boy living with his family in a tent camp in the street fetches his bike from inside the earthquake-damaged building at Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Despite worries about the building's stability, residents need to enter daily to use the bathroom, shower, and retrieve stored belongings. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, residents of an earthquake-damaged apartment building at 5 de Febrero and Guipuzcoa gather for a hot dinner brought by volunteers from the earthquake relief group "Ayudame Hoy," in the tent camp where they have been living outside their building in Mexico City. Six months after the September quake, eight families are still living in the camp, taking turns to take off from work and to watch over the camp and the abandoned building, still filled with their personal belongings.

    In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, residents of an earthquake-damaged apartment building at 5 de Febrero and Guipuzcoa gather for a hot dinner brought by volunteers from the earthquake relief group "Ayudame Hoy," in the tent camp where they have been living outside their building in Mexico City. Six months after the September quake, eight families are still living in the camp, taking turns to take off from work and to watch over the camp and the abandoned building, still filled with their personal belongings. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, a woman eats a hot noodle soup provided by volunteers from earthquake-relief organization "Ayudame Hoy," inside an earthquake-damaged building in southern Mexico City. Six months after the deadly September quake, some families with nowhere else to go have moved back in to their apartments in damaged buildings, as they continue to wait for a verdict on whether the structures can be repaired and how long that process might take.

    In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, a woman eats a hot noodle soup provided by volunteers from earthquake-relief organization "Ayudame Hoy," inside an earthquake-damaged building in southern Mexico City. Six months after the deadly September quake, some families with nowhere else to go have moved back in to their apartments in damaged buildings, as they continue to wait for a verdict on whether the structures can be repaired and how long that process might take. Associated Press

  • In this March 14, 2018 photo, 18-year-old Axel Lopez Martinez helps 13-year-old neighbor Juan Alfredo Cuaclayo Rodriguez with his homework inside one of the tent camps where residents of earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 have been living, in Mexico City. Rodriguez lives here with his mother Maria Patricia Rodriguez Gonzalez and 27-year old sister.

    In this March 14, 2018 photo, 18-year-old Axel Lopez Martinez helps 13-year-old neighbor Juan Alfredo Cuaclayo Rodriguez with his homework inside one of the tent camps where residents of earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 have been living, in Mexico City. Rodriguez lives here with his mother Maria Patricia Rodriguez Gonzalez and 27-year old sister. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 11, 2018 photo, a man carries a bookshelf down a staircase with gaps that have been covered with boards, as a handful of residents accompanied by movers brave a 15-story condemned building to recover personal possessions and furniture, in the Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City. Some of the apartment towers, which survived the 1985 earthquake and were known locally as the "Soldominios," a nickname which combines the Spanish words for soldier and condominium, were heavily damaged in last September's quake. The towers of the "Great Bear" building tilted away from each other in the quake, leaving a gap in the staircase that widened to several feet at the top floors.

    In this Jan. 11, 2018 photo, a man carries a bookshelf down a staircase with gaps that have been covered with boards, as a handful of residents accompanied by movers brave a 15-story condemned building to recover personal possessions and furniture, in the Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City. Some of the apartment towers, which survived the 1985 earthquake and were known locally as the "Soldominios," a nickname which combines the Spanish words for soldier and condominium, were heavily damaged in last September's quake. The towers of the "Great Bear" building tilted away from each other in the quake, leaving a gap in the staircase that widened to several feet at the top floors. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 11, 2018 photo, movers prepare to lower a couch out through the missing windows of an apartment inside the condemned "Great Bear" building in the Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City. Several of the 15-story apartment towers, which survived the 1985 earthquake and were known locally as the "Soldominios," a nickname which combines the Spanish words for soldier and condominium, were heavily damaged in last September's quake. Six months after the quake, the "Great Bear" building is the first to be demolished, with a team of laborers doing much of the work by hand with pickaxes.

    In this Jan. 11, 2018 photo, movers prepare to lower a couch out through the missing windows of an apartment inside the condemned "Great Bear" building in the Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City. Several of the 15-story apartment towers, which survived the 1985 earthquake and were known locally as the "Soldominios," a nickname which combines the Spanish words for soldier and condominium, were heavily damaged in last September's quake. Six months after the quake, the "Great Bear" building is the first to be demolished, with a team of laborers doing much of the work by hand with pickaxes. Associated Press

  • In this March 16, 2018 photo, an eight-story apartment building is demolished at Toluca 43 in the Roma Sur neighborhood of Mexico City. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs. Only a handful of the most high risk buildings have so far been torn down, and some buildings have yet to receive any answer at all on whether they can be reinforced and salvaged, or whether they too will be condemned.

    In this March 16, 2018 photo, an eight-story apartment building is demolished at Toluca 43 in the Roma Sur neighborhood of Mexico City. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs. Only a handful of the most high risk buildings have so far been torn down, and some buildings have yet to receive any answer at all on whether they can be reinforced and salvaged, or whether they too will be condemned. Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 19, 2018 photo, Veronica Martinez Hernandez, right, and Emmanuel Garcia Carbajal, left, stand along with other neighbors outside the condemned and chained up housing blocks where they lived until September's earthquake, in a housing complex at Ignacio Zaragoza 2980 in eastern Mexico City. The frustrated residents say that the government has offered no information or help since telling them that six housing blocks in the complex will have to be demolished without being rebuilt, as deep cracks have opened in the earth below those buildings. Most of the displaced residents are elderly, they say, and have no source of income to pay rent or a new mortgage elsewhere. Many have been sleeping three families to an apartment with friends in neighboring buildings.

    In this Jan. 19, 2018 photo, Veronica Martinez Hernandez, right, and Emmanuel Garcia Carbajal, left, stand along with other neighbors outside the condemned and chained up housing blocks where they lived until September's earthquake, in a housing complex at Ignacio Zaragoza 2980 in eastern Mexico City. The frustrated residents say that the government has offered no information or help since telling them that six housing blocks in the complex will have to be demolished without being rebuilt, as deep cracks have opened in the earth below those buildings. Most of the displaced residents are elderly, they say, and have no source of income to pay rent or a new mortgage elsewhere. Many have been sleeping three families to an apartment with friends in neighboring buildings. Associated Press

  • In this March 13, 2018 photo, four-year-old Yandel Rivera climbs out of the tent where he is living with his family outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Six months after the earthquake, thousands of people remain displaced in Mexico City, many of them still awaiting news of what will happen to the properties where they once lived.

    In this March 13, 2018 photo, four-year-old Yandel Rivera climbs out of the tent where he is living with his family outside earthquake-damaged Independencia 18 in Mexico City. Six months after the earthquake, thousands of people remain displaced in Mexico City, many of them still awaiting news of what will happen to the properties where they once lived. Associated Press

  • A neighbors holds up a sign that read in Spanish "13:14:40, six months 19S," referring to the time and day of the Sept, 2017 earthquake, during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the quake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs.

    A neighbors holds up a sign that read in Spanish "13:14:40, six months 19S," referring to the time and day of the Sept, 2017 earthquake, during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the quake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs. Associated Press

  • Locals raise her fists during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs.

    Locals raise her fists during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs. Associated Press

  • A woman holds up a sign that reads in Spanish " Do not forget 19S17," during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the Mexico City quake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs.

    A woman holds up a sign that reads in Spanish " Do not forget 19S17," during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the Mexico City quake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs. Associated Press

  • Neighbors and earthquake victims raise their fists during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs.

    Neighbors and earthquake victims raise their fists during a memorial ceremony on the six month anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake, Monday, March 19, 2018. People who lost their homes and businesses inside heavily damaged buildings have been protesting the slow rate of progress with demolitions and repairs. Associated Press

MEXICO CITY -- Under a patchwork shelter of overlapping tarps and repurposed vinyl advertisements, several dozen residents of 18 Independence Street pack cheek by jowl into donated tents in the street near their building, which was damaged in the Sept. 19 earthquake.

Six months after the temblor, improvised camps like this one erected by displaced residents are among the most visible signs that not everyone has moved on from the earthquake that killed 228 people in Mexico City and 141 more elsewhere.

Mexico City Reconstruction Commissioner Edgar Oswaldo Tungui Rodriguez said there are 27 such camps around the capital, but denied that people were living in any of them. Rather, he said, quake victims had just posted guards to watch over their property.

Camps visited by Associated Press journalists offered a different reality.

Maria Patricia Rodriguez Gonzalez has been living under tarps on the sidewalk near the Independence Street building with her 13-year-old son and 27-year old daughter for the past six months.

The residents are still allowed to enter the building, but nobody risks staying there.

The bedroom floor in Rodriguez's apartment has sunk since the earthquake. The ceiling sags and plaster has fallen from the walls. Afraid to use the bathroom there, she heats water on a gas burner under the tarps and manages a sort of bath inside a portable toilet on the sidewalk.

At first, Rodriguez and other residents say, there was a lot of solidarity in the neighborhood. Some neighbors let them use their bathrooms and shared food after the magnitude 7.1 quake. But as the days turned to weeks and then to months, sentiments shifted.

People have stolen the gas tanks they use to heat food. Cars have come close to driving through the camp. Some neighbors have stopped speaking to them, others hurl insults.

"It makes us sad that people insult us without knowing the reality we are living," Rodriguez said. "We're not here because we want to be. We're here out of necessity."

Displaced residents received 3,000 pesos ($160) each month for the first three months from the government. The idea was that they would rent apartments elsewhere. But residents say that was not enough to rent apartments in their neighborhood and they fear that without their presence, looters will clear out their possessions. Many residents had lived in the building's 37 units for more than 30 years.

Rodriguez tries to make ends meet by selling candy on a table at the entrance to her camp. She had sold candy out of her ground floor apartment before the earthquake. Others go off to jobs during the day while a few of the building's older women look after the others' young children.

Most everyone has a cough and especially the children are often battling colds, said resident Emma Alvarez Lopez, who helps look after children. Her own granddaughter eventually had to leave the camp after contracting pneumonia.

"If we go, we'll practically be abandoning the building," Alvarez said. "We have to somehow pressure the government to support us."

For now, they await an official determination from the city about their building. Most believe it will need to be torn down.

Their story was repeated by hundreds of quake victims who marched through the city's center on Monday, demanding the government pay for repairs of reconstruction of their quake-damaged apartments.

In a sense, those whose buildings collapsed totally during the quake were luckier; there is no dispute about total demolition, and the government has offered self-financing in some cases to rebuild more apartments on existing lots, with developers selling off the extra units to pay for the reconstruction.

It is tougher victims like Miguel Angel Rodriguez, 57, whose apartment building in the Roma neighborhood suffered huge cracks in the quake. He has lived with relatives because it's too dangerous to go back into his apartment, "but it is so uncomfortable to go back home and live like an uninvited guest."

Building inspectors said the apartment block could be repaired, "but it was like a ten-minute, best-guess inspection. Who knows if it can really be repaired," said Rodriguez.

It is that uncertainty that has made life unbearable; many have spent months on a bureaucratic treadmill, as officials ask for more and more paperwork, while the buildings sit empty and cracked, often with residents' possessions still locked inside.

Like Rodriguez, Elizabeth Gutierrez, 56, also wonders who will pay for such expensive repairs, which haven't started yet, six months after the quake. "It's frustrating, it makes you mad," said Gutierrez, who originally camped out outside her damaged building, and later went to live with relatives.

Tungui, the reconstruction commissioner, said in written responses to questions that city officials so far have determined what to do with 757 structures out of 911 on a list of damaged buildings compiled by an emergency committee. Some will be demolished, others repaired or reinforced. So far the city has demolished 28 buildings and is currently working on 15 others, he said.

The city announced last week that it had taken ownership of a lot where an office building collapsed, killing 49 people. It plans to convert it into a memorial to victims of the earthquake.

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