A year after a tragic earthquake, Mexico City residents still live in condemned buildings

It's been nearly a year since Mexico was hit by a devastating earthquake, but its aftermath is still putting lives at risk. Residents are returning to live in condemned buildings. They're too poor to find safer homes, and the government is struggling to keep them out.

Mexico was struck by its worst earthquake in thirty years last September. Hundreds lost their lives and thousands more were displaced from their homes. Now nearly a year later, and left with nowhere else to go, some people are returning to live in the city’s condemned buildings. Veronica Mendiola is the administrator of a tower block which, despite the massive damage caused by the quake, continues to house 12 families.

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“There’s no water, no electricity, but there were people who were living here. There were people who have their stuff here and haven’t taken it out. Why? Because of negligence,” Mendiola said.

The city’s demolition engineer said that the building is just one of many deathtraps, at risk of collapse, that remain standing because residents refuse to leave.

More than 1,500 buildings throughout the capital were structurally damaged in last year’s earthquake. In the center of the city, where hundreds remain at high risk of collapse, only 10 have been demolished by authorities.

Cinthia Murieta leads the city center’s civil protection body. She said while the government can’t force people out of their homes, they are doing their best to encourage them to think long-term.

“You have to give people alternatives so they don’t continue living in danger,” Murieta said.

Sergio Beltran is an architect, and said that the capital’s future depends on its commitment to safe construction.

“Last year awoke the authentic spirit of compromise between the people and the government, to work together and create protocols and resolve the situation. I’ve seen a very active community,” Beltran said.

As Mexico City continues to recover from last year’s disaster, residents hope lessons will be learned. In this city, earthquakes are a certainty, and the buildings that go up must be equally reliable.