By Mariana Martinez
“I saw how the hill was sliding down, the authorities came in yesterday to take us out of our homes, they told us the hill was collapsing. At 5 am Monday my house collapsed completely” said 54 year old Juan Sandoval just one of the dozen homeowners who lost their homes this week in Tijuana after a hill collapsed underneath their homes at Fraccionamiento Monterrey.
According to Sandoval, they noticed the earth moving about two weeks ago.
Rosa Pedraza, another neighbor, had to be evacuated but she stayed close by, monitoring the home she shared with her husband and three children ages 9, 7 and 3.
“The cracking of the houses started at Don Roberto’s house, it came down a foot last weekend, and slowly, the earth started moving down, first at the park and then to my house…” she said, “firemen came and told us our home would eventually collapse over the next 6 months, but it has only been 12 hours and the walls are already cracking open”.
Eight homes collapsed completely, what’s left of them stands by a crack that is at least 300 feet long and 9 feet deep and could grow until it destroys homes near by.
This is just one of the latest consequences of one of the strongest earthquakes to hit this border area in the last decade, a 7.2 degree earthquake followed by more than 7 thousand replicas throughout the region.
The quake, —so emblematical, is being studied at the meeting of the American Geological Society to be held at the end of May—was quickly overshadowed in Mexico by the disappearance and death of a 4 year old girl called Paulette, and in the US by the hasty approval of a harsh immigration law in Arizona.
But the quake and its consequences for the region need to be taken into account both by the community and its political leaders, its impact might affect the region for the next decade.
Baja State government spokesperson Victor Adán López Camacho estimated damages caused by the quake are over $450 million dollars, equivalent to 1.66% of the state’s gross product.
Damages include 55 kilometers of road with major damages, 19 kilometers that will need repairs, three bridges that will have to be rebuilt, along with 2,800 homes, 142 schools, 7 cultural centers and 13 sports institutions, the City Hospital and 17 clinics.
Neighboring Calexico has similar numbers. City Administrator Assistant Armando Villa, estimates the losses at $91.3 million dollars, including severe damage in the water system and 800 inhabitable homes and the cost of additional security for the city because of the fear of looting.
Farmers have been badly hit and crops worth over $16.6 million dollars could be lost in San Luis Rio Colorado due to severe damages in water supply.
According to COLEF Economist Alejandro Diaz Bautista, employment is looking bleak for the next quarter. Baja California has an unemployment rate of 6.69% while California had an unemployment rate of 12.6 in March of this year.
“Unemployed people who used to work at the US, specifically California, along with Mexicans emigrating from the South are pressuring Baja’s economy” explained Bautista, “according to government numbers, people returning from California or coming from the South in search of a better life account for 4.6% of the total unemployment and the earthquake only came to make matters worse.”
Summer yet to come
The Calexico-Mexicali Valley is well known for it’s in bad weather, where a dessert like climate can bring snow in the winter and temperatures can reach 113 degrees in the summer, making it even harder to survive for over five thousand people who lost the home in rural and urban Mexicali.
While state officials are parading shelters with surveys of damages, people living in the shelters are already suffering diarrhea, skin problems and insect bites.
Pre-fab home sellers have unexpectedly benefited from the quake, and Rosarito and Tijuana sellers have been called upon to sell affordable homes that are already to install, with a price ranging from $5 to $15 thousand dollars.
“We’ve had a lot of sales from people in Mexicali whose homes where declared damaged or who simply don’t want to slept in a solid home and now prefer wooden structures” Roberto Hernandez, prefab home salesman explains, “but this homes are suitable for benign weather, many of them don’t have air conditioning and even if they had one, where would they get electricity if the service is still struggling to keep up with city demand?”