MEXICO CITY – The cost of reconstruction following major earthquakes that killed more than 400 people while devastating parts of central and southern Mexico is expected to exceed 38 billion pesos ($2.12 billion), President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Wednesday.
It will take 6.5 billion pesos just to replace housing in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca destroyed by the magnitude-8.2 temblor that struck just off the coast on Sept. 7, he said during a meeting to evaluate the damage.
Residential reconstruction in the central states affected by the magnitude-7.1 quake of Sept. 19 will likely require another 10 billion pesos, while spending to repair or replace damaged schools is forecast to approach 14 billion pesos, the president said.
Those figures demonstrate the magnitude of the challenge Mexico faces, Peña Nieto said, calling on the private sector to join a proposed coordination roundtable aimed at “optimizing the use and destination” of resources devoted to earthquake recovery.
The attempt to quantify the material damage from the quakes came hours after Mexico’s head of emergency services said that the number of confirmed deaths from the Sept. 19 temblor had climbed to 337.
This capital accounts for 198 of those fatalities, followed by the states of Morelos, 74; Puebla, 45; and Mexico, 13, Luis Felipe Puente said.
The search for bodies continues in Mexico City and the death toll could rise further.
Wednesday’s bulletin boosts the total number of deaths blamed on the earthquakes to more than 430, including 98 people who died in the Sept. 7 disaster and six others who perished last Saturday in a strong aftershock of the southern temblor.
The massive quake suffered by Mexico City in 1985 left at least 20,000 people dead.
More than 250,000 Mexicans have been forced from their homes by this month’s earthquakes, Development Secretary Rosario Robles said during the damage-assessment conference chaired by the president.
“We are talking about more than 150,000 damaged homes,” she said, including nearly 25,000 that were completely destroyed and more than 46,000 others rendered uninhabitable.
The process of rebuilding is already under way in accord with a strategy of “self-construction with technical assistance” from authorities, Robles said.
Families “will have the responsibility, with the support of the government, to do the work themselves or pay for labor,” with the possibility of access to affordable materials and technical advice, she said.
In the short term, Robles said, officials plan to provide displaced people with centers that include communal kitchens, showers, bathrooms and spaces where they can live “in safe conditions.”