A powerful earthquake that leveled parts of Mexico on Sept. 7 has also impacted many here in the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles area who are working tirelessly to raise funds to help those left with no food, water or shelter.
The tremor, measuring 8.1 on the moment magnitude scale (according to the US Geological Survey), was felt as far away as Guatemala and El Salvador and more than 1,000 aftershocks have been recorded. At least 96 people were killed.
Scientists have warned that a quake of similar magnitude could strike Southern California and create even more havoc because of the San Andreas fault that lays underneath densely populated areas.
It was the most devastating earthquake to hit Mexico in the last 100 years, according to President Enrique Peña Nieto, and the most intensely felt quake globally this year, affecting 2.5 million people overall and creating so much destruction that the Mexican government had to withdraw its offers of aid to the victims of hurricane Harvey in Texas. (The country has also been enduring heavy rains and other challenges from hurricane Katia in the Gulf state of Veracruz.)
Nowhere is the devastation more prevalent than in Oaxaca, where the governor said that 12,000 homes were destroyed and 76 people died. Small towns are now a sea of bricks, broken houses and cars, leaving nerves and hopes shattered.
Eduardo Piamonte, a North Hills resident, said his family is OK and they have been trying to help others who are less fortunate. But the devastation in his town and the region where he grew up, is overwhelming.
“If you go into a house, you don’t know where the door is. Everything is on the ground,” Piamonte said.
Alejandra Conde, who lives in Los Angeles, counts her lucky stars that her family fared better than most. She grew up in Mexico City, but her family comes from the town of Asuncion Ixtaltepec in Oaxaca.
Reports indicate that 80 percent of the 4,000 homes in the town (population:15,000) were destroyed or damaged.
“The town is in ruins, very few homes are still inhabitable,” the 36-year-old said, adding that uncles and other family members are now sharing space in the homes of those with dwellings still standing or less damaged than others.
Piamonte, a native of Huazantlan del Rio, Oaxaca, in what is known as the Huave Region (a landstrip surrounded by water), sent $300 dollars the day after the earthquake. With that money, his parents and brothers bought food and water and set out to distribute them to the coastal towns that were hardest hit by the tremor.
“My dad called me (after he returned) and (crying) told me the whole area is devastated,” Piamonte said. “Houses are completely destroyed. There’s no water or electricity, there are cracks in the road. It’s a total calamity.”
With the little money he makes, Piamonte is spearheading a collection of his own, through his Facebook page. His goal is $300 – so far he’s raised $100 – to send back home to his parents, so they can go out again with food and water to distribute to the most needy.
Piamonte said he learned that seven people died in this area, including an older woman who was trying to save her nieces.
A region where struggling with poverty is daily for most residents is now in shambles.
“As it was, they were humble, hard-working people who had nothing, now they’re even worse,” Piamonte said.
He laments that hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which battered Texas and Florida last week and this week, have taken away from coverage of the disaster in his native land.
“We only ask that there be a little coverage so that people can turn their eyes to this,” he said.
Another Town Devastated
Conde was just opening her Facebook on Sept. 7 when she started noticing messages about an earthquake in Mexico. She immediately called her father in Mexico City and confirmed that they had felt it. They, in turn, had called her grandparents in Asuncion Ixtaltepec and were able to get through. But the call was cut short and it would be more than a day before they were able to communicate again, and only sporadically.
“Those were long hours for us,” she said. “At least we knew they were alive.”
By Saturday, Sept. 9, someone in her Facebook community had managed to reach the town and upload photos.
“It was a tremendous shock to see the level of destruction,” Conde said. “Homes completely destroyed, two-story homes where the first floor disappeared completely and the second floor is on the ground. Homes that appear as if they had been demolished.
“It was incredible to see that this was happening,” she added. “In a few seconds everything was finished. What took years of being built with a lot of dedication and hope came down.”
Ten people died in Asuncion Ixtaltepec and several were injured.
In Need of Help
A video on YouTube (http://bit.ly/2gZjreI) captures the devastation in the town.
A man takes viewers through streets filled with debris, homes where walls and roofs collapsed and others have enormous cracks. Even the town’s City Hall — festooned with flags for the Independence Day celebration — is barely standing.
“We ask the community, people who listen to this, to send help to this town and that we do as much as we can to show solidarity with the people of Asuncion Ixtaltepec”, says the man, who is unable to get near a home where the residents are holding a funeral for a loved one.
Another man in the video says “this is the home where one of my wife’s aunts died. This town requires a lot of help. It’s one of the most impacted by the earthquake.”
Conde makes the same plea. Along with friends and other Oaxacans native of Ixtaltepec, she is sending money to help her town.
Her father, an engineer, is headed there as well from Mexico City to pass out canvas to those who are now without a roof over their heads. Apart from the earthquake, it’s been raining in the area because of hurricane Katia.
“There are people sleeping on the streets, in their patios,” Conde said. “There are a lot of people who are left with nothing, not even an ID. It’s a terrible situation.”
The quake happened close to midnight (Mexico time) and many were sleeping, so they left their homes with pretty much what they had on.
“Your help will be greatly appreciated,” Conde said. “We’re in a moment of crisis, there’s a lot of people who need just about everything. Whatever you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.”
The Oaxacan community has opened a GoFundMe page “Unidos por Oaxaca” to collect funds that will go to purchase food, clothing and other basic necessities that will be distributed among the most affected.
If you wish to help, you can do so by visiting: