Panic and confusion as third major earthquake strikes Mexico in less than three weeks

Sunday 24 September 2017

Hundreds of children are spending another night out in the open, in makeshift camps and shelters or in the street, too scared to return home for fear of another tremor. It follows the latest 6.1 magnitude quake in the southern state of Oaxaca on Saturday morning, the third in just over two weeks.   

Buildings already damaged by two previous quakes (on September 7 in Oaxaca and September 19 in Puebla/Morelos) are at increased risk of collapsing following the latest tremor. 

Nicolas Villa, Communications Manager, Save the Children, was in Oaxaca when the quake struck. He describes what he saw:

“One minute people were having breakfast in their homes and the next they were running into the street screaming, desperately trying to get away from buildings in case they collapsed. People are very scared right now. They’re camping in the street or in front of their homes. The army has set up temporary shelters but many families don’t want to leave their homes for fear of being robbed.”

Save the Children visited another makeshift shelter in the town of Atlixco in neighbouring Puebla state, where at least 70 people are sleeping rough, including dozens of children. We spoke to one mother and community volunteer. 

Araceli Medina, mother and volunteer, 50 years old, said:

“After the earthquake this morning there was panic in the streets. I saw one man run out and start shouting, ‘get out of your houses now’ and this created more fear. Last week’s earthquake really scared my 15-year-old son. He had never seen this kind of disaster. I hope it doesn’t effect him.”

Amidst the devastation, Mexican people have shown great solidarity with civil society groups, volunteers and the general public donating clothes, toys, food and water to those made homeless. 

But uncertainty remains for those whose homes and schools have been wrecked by the multiple earthquakes. Save the Children spoke to one grandfather and his grandson in the town of Tepapayeca in Puebla state, found wandering through the rubble of their home. 

Micacio Moreno, 68 years old, said:

“It’s sad because it’s your home. I had my little room there. I worked so hard to build it. And in just a few minutes it was all gone. That’s all. I survived the earthquake in 1985 and I’ll survive this one. I’m sorry for being emotional.” 

Armando Moreno, 12 years old, said:

“I don’t feel too bad about losing my house. The most important thing is my family. It doesn’t matter if our house is destroyed or our furniture is gone. What matters is my family and that they’re ok.”

An estimated 30 million people live in the quake-affected area. At least 7,000 schools across the country have been damaged. The Mexican government says at least 350 of them need to be completely rebuilt. 

Ivonne Piedras, Advocacy Officer, Save the Children Mexico, said:

“Children affected by the earthquakes need urgent emotional support and a safe space to go to so that they can start to recover from what they’ve seen. Many of the children I’ve met are scared and nervous. Their homes and schools must be rebuilt as soon as possible so they can try to return to normal and be children again.”

Save the Children is responding across four states (Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla and Oaxaca) opening children’s centres, where we are provide emotional support to children through play and learning to help them deal with stress they have encountered.  We are rebuilding and repairing schools and homes and hope to reach 100,000 people across all four states, including at least 30,000 children. 

Photos available on request, with further multimedia to follow. 

Spokespeople are available in Mexico from 06:30am local time (12.30pm UK).  To arrange an interview, for multimedia or further information please call or email: 

Bhanu Bhatnagar in Mexico B.Bhatnagar@savethechildren.org.uk+5215544927915

Ivonne Piedras in Mexico Ivonne.Piedras@savethechildren.org+5215535546241 

Press Office in London: media@savethechildren.org.uk +447831650409

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