WILLIAM BRANGHAM, NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: It’s early Saturday morning in Ocuilan, Mexico and Faustino Jimenez hopes he won’t be delivering more bad news. He’s an volunteer engineer, trained by the Mexican civil defense force.
Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed in this area. Jimenez’s job is to decide which ones can be saved and which ones must be demolished. The Garcia family lives in this modest two story house. 86-year-old Catalina Hernandez Vargas raised her two children here. They grew up and raised kids of their own. Over the decades, the family and the house expanded three generations under one roof. Today, Jimenez will determine whether they can stay any longer.
Ocuilan is in a rural, mountainous area in Mexico state, about 60-miles southwest of Mexico City. There are no tall structures here, so only two people died in the quake. Dozens more were injured. Mayor Felix Alberto Linares toured the wreckage of an 18th century Catholic church. he balloons remain from a celebratory feast a few weeks before the quake hit. It’s not clear if the church can be saved.
MAYOR FELIX ALBERTO LINARES, MAYOR, OCUILAN, MÉXICO: The issue here is that we can’t let the effects of the earthquake be forgotten after a few weeks or a month. We are going to be following up with those who lost their home so we can help them rebuild.”
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Everywhere we went, we saw similar damage. In a neighboring town, its historic church is cracked and crumbled. In the tiny hillside town of Tlatempa, an estimated 75 percent of the homes are badly damaged or destroyed. Back at the Garcia home, it’s what everyone feared: their home is too dangerous to live in. Twenty-two-year-old noemi was born and raised in this house.
NOEMI GARCIA CEDANO: My parents’ house cracked and they told us we had to evacuate. They say everything is going to collapse. We have to find another place to live because the ground could keep shaking. Nothing is easy. We don’t know what’s going to happen next.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jimenez’s team immediately begins helping them pack up their belongings. Noemi’s father, Edilberto Garcia Hernandez, is a local policeman,
EDILBERTO GARCIA HERNANDEZ: My parents built the first two rooms of this house. When I earned enough money, I built more onto it, the little I could. But we are poor.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: His mom has slept in the house since she was a teenager, but not anymore.
CATALINA HERNANDEZ VARGAS: I thought of asking god to just let me die. I don’t want to live through any more of this. We have suffered, and I don’t want to suffer anymore.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For Faustino Jiminez, these days are the worst part of his job.
FAUSTINO JIMENEZ, ENGINEER: Emotionally, this work breaks you. It’s very difficult. You can’t just tell someone with a cold heart that they have nowhere to live. But our job is to save lives.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In two hours, all the Garcia’s belongings are stacked outside. They’ll stay with a relative tonight but beyond that they just don’t know.
CATALINA HERNANDEZ VARGAS: I feel destroyed. It feels like these are the last days on earth. We have no idea what’s going to happen.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One family, like thousands here in central Mexico with a long road ahead to rebuild.