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After Mexico City quake, big structural risk remains

Rong-Gong Lin II and Cecilia Sanchez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The mayor's office did not respond to interview requests.

Mexico City residents said in interviews that they would welcome new safety measures. But many doubted that the government had the political will to even conduct a census of buildings, let alone order costly improvements.

"I think the government should tell us if the area is safe, if our building could be in danger if they do not make the right revisions," said Claudia Centeno, a 40-year-old nurse who was told that the damage to her apartment was only cosmetic.

"I'm going to leave this building as soon as my rental agreement is up, but the next people who want to live here may be at risk and might not know if the government says nothing," she said.

After the quake, city inspectors fanned out to assess the damage. But they were not checking for vulnerability to the next earthquake, according to Elizabeth Cochran, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist who recently visited Mexico City with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute as part of a mission to learn from the September earthquake.

Rosario Avendano, a 22-year-old marketing student whose apartment building in the Del Valle neighborhood is still standing, albeit with cracks in some walls, said she wants the government to conduct more thorough assessments.

"The government is only covering the sun with a finger," she said. "They are going to remodel, they are going to paint, they are going to change broken glass so that everything looks nice again, but they are not doing in-depth studies of why so many buildings were damaged in the city.

"The government must tell us the truth about whether or not our houses are safe."

(Los Angeles Times staff writer Lin reported from Los Angeles. Sanchez is a member of The Times' Mexico City bureau. Staff writer Kate Linthicum in Mexico City contributed to this report.)

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