On Friday the SEAOSC Safer Cities Recon Team (SCRT) travelled south to the small city of Jojutla, located approximately 100 km east of the September 19 Mw 7.1 epicenter (compare this with Mexico City, which is located approximately 120 km from the epicenter). Jojutla does not have the unique geology of Mexico City, but has an abundance of traditional Mexican concrete and brick construction, combined with a build-it-yourself, largely unregulated, construction industry. Buildings typically were 1-2 stories in height (increasing to 3-4 in the town center), consisted primarily of a concrete frames infilled with brick (some adobe construction was also encountered), very irregular in plan and elevation with open fronts, discontinuous bearing walls, or lacking a secondary gravity system altogether.
The SCRT team met up with locals who guided the team around the city, and quickly learned how devastated the city was. Every street the team turned down seemed to be littered with brick and concrete rubble. Many buildings had collapsed, and many more were nearing collapse. Locals were confused about the safety of their damaged homes, and were hoping for reassurance that their house was repairable, and that they could occupy their house while repairs were being carried out. Unfortunately, many homes were beyond repair. The SCRT offered their professional opinion, which was often not the answer locals wanted to hear, but were pleased to simply have some idea of what to expect.
Jojutla was a great example of where resiliency is critical to the prosperity of the community. Jojutla is a hub for the surrounding agricultural industry, and with many of the main streets cordoned off, a significant portion of the city had ground to a halt. Scattered amongst the collapsed buildings were a number of buildings and businesses that could be reoccupied had it not been for the neighboring buildings.
The SCRT team interviewed volunteers providing relief effort, and were amazed at the savviness of volunteers coming from out of town to help distribute and gather supplies. Locals had taken it upon themselves to dust themselves off, and get on with the rebuild, rather than waiting in, what would likely be, a very long que. Unfortunately, the rebuild efforts were simply a repeat of the type of construction whose fate was met less than one month earlier – a clear indication a shift in construction is necessary.
The team finished the long day interviewing the members of one of the team members’ family who lives in nearby Zacatepec. As is the case for many Mexican families, their roots run deep in these communities, and despite the devastation they are here to stay. Relocation is not an option.