What now? Mexicans in shelters ask themselves after quake

A woman with a relative possibly buried under the rubble of a building knocked down by the earthquake awaits news from rescue teams in Mexico City. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2017
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What now? Mexicans in shelters ask themselves after quake

MEXICO CITY: Erika Albarran, a 33-year-old street vendor, was feeding her baby when the 7.1-magnitude quake struck Mexico City.
Both survived, but her home was damaged and now she’s in a shelter, with no money, not knowing how to face the future.
She, like thousands living in the capital, saw her daily life upended in the long seconds of the earthquake, which killed more than 270 people.
It is estimated that 20,000 homes suffered structural damage, with many too unsafe to return to. Their occupants are homeless.
“I’m waiting for the civil protection service to tell me if we can go home or not,” she said.
“We don’t have cash. We’re living day to day. Being a vendor now, sales aren’t good,” added Albarran, whose sells candy and fruit juice.
She is now sleeping in one of 50 shelters set up to take people left with nowhere to go.
The numbers using them fluctuate, making it difficult to calculate how many were left homeless, the city’s authorities said. Also, many people in unsafe lodgings were taken in by family or friends.
And some people are sleeping in the streets.
Officials are currently focusing on trying to find more survivors in the rubble of dozens of buildings that were toppled, and tending to those injured.
It will be only later that attention will turn to evaluating property damage, looking after those affected, and reconstruction.
Albarran, whose husband also survived, spent part of Tuesday night after the earthquake sleeping in an ATM entranceway of a bank.
Her family has only 100 pesos ($5.50) among them, and the children were getting hungry.
But then they heard of the shelters and made it to one, where there was free donated food. So much food has been given that some centers were overflowing with it.
“Without food, we wouldn’t have made it. We left without anything — no diapers, no milk,” Albarran said.
“But here they’ve given us everything: clothes, milk, diapers.”
She knows, though, that the assistance won’t last forever.
Martha Alba, a 61-year-old retiree, has a message for her friends, telling them to “find a secure home.”
After a 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people in Mexico City — and which occurred on the same day 32 years before Tuesday’s quake — she had bought an apartment cheaply in the upmarket district of Condesa.
The area, hard hit this week, is one of the most vulnerable to quakes. Yet in recent years it’s witnessed a boom in apartments costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That prestige has proved costly to Alba.
“My home was badly damaged. It’s impossible to go into it,” she said.
“I poured all my years of work into buying that place.”
After the quake, she was put up in a friend’s house. She spent Thursday looking for an apartment to rent.
But uncertainty dogs her quest. She doesn’t know how long she will have to rent, or if her apartment building can be reinforced. Above all, she harbors the fear that the earth could shake again.
“I’m safe. The earthquake put me out into the street. But, as always, the middle class ends up suffering a lot,” she said.
“The rich have enough to buy elsewhere, and the poor — even though this sounds harsh — are used to having nothing, and they are the first to get help from the government.”
As for insurance, there’s little chance of property owners being indemnified. Only around five percent of them have policies, it is estimated. Insurance isn’t a customary reflex in Mexico, despite its vulnerability to seismic upheaval.
Eloisa Tamayo, 72, was also wondering what she will do, post-quake.
“That’s what you ask yourself: What next? We are in limbo,” she said, holding her small dog, Moni.
She lived alone with her pet in an apartment in Morelos, a state just south of the capital that was also badly hit by the quake.
She has been told her building didn’t suffer major damage. But she fears going back.
“A building collapsed right close to where I live. Now I’m too afraid to stay,” she said, adding that during the quake her only concern was for her dog.
Engineers and architects called on by Mexico City’s municipality are criss-crossing the city to decide whether people are able to return to certain buildings.
Albarran, like many, is hoping that she will get a go-ahead to go home.


UN envoy: 1.1 billion people face risks from lack of cooling

Rachel Kyte. (Twitter)
Updated 14 min 31 sec ago
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UN envoy: 1.1 billion people face risks from lack of cooling

  • “Access to cooling is not a luxury. Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity”
  • For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016

UNITED NATIONS: New data from 52 countries in hot climates reveals that over 1.1 billion people face “significant risks” from lack of access to cooling including death, a UN envoy said Monday.
Rachel Kyte told a press conference that “millions of people die every year from lack of cooling access, whether from food losses, damaged vaccines, or severe heat impact.”
The UN envoy, who is promoting the United Nations goal of providing sustainable energy for all people by 2030, said nine countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with the biggest populations that face major risks are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan.
Kyte stressed that “’cooling for all’” doesn’t mean “putting an air conditioner in every home.”
She said an urgent effort is needed to clarify cooling needs, engage governments and the private sector, and develop and test possible new solutions.
Kyte spoke on the sidelines of this week’s high-level event assessing progress on six of the 17 UN goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 to combat poverty, promote development and preserve the environment by 2030. One of the goals is universal access to sustainable energy.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the opening session that there has been progress on reducing maternal and child mortality, tackling childhood marriage, expanding access to electricity, addressing global unemployment, and cutting the rate of forest loss around the globe.
But Mohammed said in other areas “we are either moving too slowly, or losing momentum.”
“For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 — fundamentally undermining our commitment to leaving no one behind,” she said.
Young people remain three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, most of the world’s extreme poor are projected to live in urban settings by 2035, and basic sanitation remains “off track,” she said. And “we are seeing alarming decline in biodiversity, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases” that cause global warming.
As for access to energy including renewable energy, Mohammed said the rate of progress “is not fast enough to meet our target.”
“We need to also double our efforts on energy efficiency,” she said. “250 million more people in Africa have no access to clean fuels for cooking compared to 2015.”
Kyte, who is also CEO of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Energy for All, stressed that without ensuring access to cooling for all people, the UN goal of universal access to energy will not be achieved.
She stressed that “access to cooling is not a luxury” but “a fundamental issue of equity. And as temperatures hit record levels, this could mean the difference between life and death for some.”
While 1.1 billion people lack access to cooling, Kyte said another 2.3 billion people present “a different kind of cooling risk.”
They represent “a growing lower-middle class who can only afford to buy cheaper, less efficient air conditioners, which could spike global energy demand and have profound climate impacts,” she said.
As examples of other hurdles that must be overcome in the next 12 years, she said, 470 million people in poor rural areas don’t have access to safe food and medicines and 630 million people in hotter, poor urban slums “have little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves.”
In India, Kyte said, “nearly 20 percent of temperature-sensitive health care products arrive damaged or degraded because of broken or insufficient cold chains, including a quarter of vaccines.”