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Death toll reaches 90 for Mexican earthquake

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The death toll from the magnitude 8.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Mexico last week has risen to 90, authorities said, as recovery efforts accelerated in the hardest-hit areas.

The quake — the strongest to hit Mexico in nearly a century — struck off the coast of Chiapas state Thursday, leaving hundreds of buildings in ruins and triggering multiple aftershocks.

The tremor was felt some 800km away in Mexico City and as far south as Honduras. The Mexican Seismological Service reported 721 aftershocks.

Authorities in the state of Oaxaca said late Saturday that the number of dead had jumped from 46 to 71. Nineteen other people died in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco, bringing the total death toll to 90.

“The power of nature may be destructive, but the power of unity and solidarity of the Mexicans is far greater,” said President Enrique Pena Nieto on Saturday after visiting the quake-zone.

In Juchitan, a city of 98,000 people in Oaxaca, suffered some of the worst damage in the country. Thirty-seven people died in Juchitan.

“We need to prevent an epidemic and send people enough water and food, because there are places with no water supply,”Oscar Cruz Lopez, Juchitan’s municipal secretary, said.Government cargo planes delivered much-needed supplies and the military began distributing boxes of food, though many residents of this city in a region of Oaxaca state, known as the Isthmus, complained progress was slow and they had not yet received assistance.

A team of volunteer rescuers sifted through the rubble in search of survivors, and to help authorities survey the damage and confirm the number of victims.

The volunteers, also known as “topos,” specialize in post-earthquake relief, and were first formed after the disastrous earthquake that struck Mexico City in September 1985.

On that occasion, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake left thousands of buildings in ruins, leaving an estimated 10,000 people dead and causing billions of dollars worth of damages.

The epicenter of Thursday’s earthquake was 435 miles from the capital. The distance, coupled with improved building safety codes since the 1985 disaster, ensured that the capital emerged relatively unscathed from Thursday’s high-magnitude quake.

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