After Mexico City’s 7.1 Quake, Delayed Collapses

After Mexico City’s 7.1 Quake, Delayed Collapses

A week after Mexico City’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake, with the heartbreaking search and rescue for children in a school whose roof pancaked, and over 326 people dead from the quake, the ripples from the hit in the earthquake-prone region are not over.

The questions now in front of city officials is whether Mexico’s aggressive building codes are only good on paper or if the buddy-buddy system of approvals — which plagues building inspections around the globe — had inspectors looking the other way on granting certificates of occupancy.

New investigations are under way, according to the New York Times, over whether the school that collapsed may have violated construction codes;  19 children and six adults died in the aftermath of the roof collapse.

“Outside inspectors had signed off on the school building’s safety as recently as three months ago, but the inquiry will look for “hidden defects,” Claudia Sheinbaum, the delegate in charge of the Tlalpan district, said Monday.”

The New York Times notes that other investigations are unfolding after the “collapse at the private Enrique Rébsamen school quickly became the most riveting emblem of the loss caused by the Sept. 19 earthquake, which has killed at least 326 people — 187 of them in Mexico City.

The AP is also following the problems in Mexico City’s building standards, post quake. “The risk of delayed collapse is real: The cupola of Our Lady of Angels Church, damaged and cracked by the Sept. 19 quake, split in half and crashed to the ground Sunday evening. There were no injuries.

“Nervous neighbors continued calling police Monday as apparently new cracks appeared in their apartment buildings or existing ones worsened, even as the city struggled to get back to normality.

“Education Secretary Aurelio Nuno said Monday that officials had cleared only 676 of Mexico City’s nearly 9,000 schools to reopen Tuesday and said it could be two to three weeks before all are declared safe, leaving hundreds of thousands of children idle.”

But despite 30 years of upgrades to the city’s building codes, Mexico City has to grapple with the inbred nature of building code enforcement which will be pushed to the fore when more buildings collapse after the quake, the New York Times notes:

“Although the new codes now rank among the world’s best, their enforcement is deeply flawed and uneven, according to interviews with scholars, officials and building inspectors.

“Building inspections have essentially been outsourced to a network of private engineers who are hired and paid for by the developers, creating conflicts of interest that can undermine even the best standards.”