Mexico City Building Ban Urged : Would Affect Area of Quake; Some Agencies to Move

September 25, 1985|DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Some geologists Tuesday called for a moratorium on new construction in the earthquake-ravaged center of Mexico's capital, and the government announced that it will move some departments and agencies outside the city to reduce crowding and the impact of any future quakes.

Meantime, seemingly against all odds, more people were being rescued from the wreckage of the devastating earthquakes of last Thursday and Friday, but the death count continued to rise as well. Municipal headquarters raised the confirmed toll to 4,160, and police calculated that it will eventually reach 5,000.

There were no reports of any upsurge in communicable diseases, although tainted water and food gone bad contributed to a high incidence of stomach and intestinal disorders.

Guillermo Soberon, secretary of health in the Cabinet of President Miguel de la Madrid, said, "We have control of the situation, and there is no danger of epidemics."

Debate continued over whether to initiate mass inoculations against tetanus and typhoid. For the moment, health officials recommended tetanus shots for rescue workers still laboring among ruined buildings and typhoid inoculations only in selected, heavily damaged neighborhoods.

Many of the collapsed and damaged buildings in the destruction zones contained government offices. Officials announced that wrecked buildings housing departments and agencies will not be rebuilt and that offices in damaged buildings will be relocated.

Juan Carlos Gomez, a geographer with the Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics, said the government should not allow new construction within the capital's stricken downtown area "if it wants to avoid new seismic disasters."

Plans Made, Deferred

Promises and plans have been made--and put off--in the past for decentralization in this crowded capital, but in the words of Ricardo Ampuria, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, "No other government has gone through a disaster like this."

Manuel Alonso, a spokesman for President De la Madrid, said offices marked for relocation will first be re-established in rented space and then moved out of the capital altogether.

In some damaged locations Tuesday, hope of finding survivors was abandoned as the rescue effort gave way to a tedious, floor-by-floor cleanup operation, yielding only the bodies of victims and debris.

As the day wore on, Police Chief Ramon Mota said about 10 bodies were being found for every survivor.

Noting that it has now been more than five days since the shattering first quake struck at 7:18 a.m. Sept. 19, rescue workers said victims buried alive in the rubble increasingly face death from lack of water, loss of blood and shock. Yet living people were still being pulled from the ruins, often accompanied by shouts and applause from the rescuers, still working around the clock.

Emilia Diaz de Santilian, 73, was found alive in the ruins of the Nuevo Leon apartment complex at Tlatelolco. The English-language Mexico City News reported that at first she refused to accompany her rescuers to safety, saying, "I'm naked, and people are going to think I have no shame."

Once again, several infants only days old were found alive in the wreckage of the Benito Juarez Hospital.

Electronic equipment brought here from abroad continued to be of invaluable help. American specialists working at the Nuevo Leon complex inserted a television camera and microphone through a gap in the debris and located a trapped man and his wife.

Sounds of Human Life

Elsewhere, French experts used sensitive listening devices to monitor murmurs, taps and faint scrapes deep within jumbles of shattered concrete.

Wrecking crews began Tuesday to demolish damaged structures where rescue workers, using search dogs, had done everything they could to determine that no living people remained inside. To avoid injuries from flying rubble at demolition sites, soldiers evacuated entire neighborhoods.

Concern flared briefly about radioactive cobalt that had been used for therapy at the Juarez hospital, but this was put to rest after technicians scanned the site with Geiger counters. Still, the building will not be dynamited until the cobalt is recovered, health officials said.

Estimates of the number of homeless ranged from the official figure of 30,000 to more than 10 times that number, projected by the newspaper El Universal without specifying a source.

In Danger of Collapse

Many were driven from homes destroyed in the earthquake, and many others were forced out of buildings weakened and in danger of collapse. Still others were evacuated from the destruction zones to facilitate rescue work.

Central Mexico City, where much of the worst damage occurred, contains some of the city's oldest buildings, along with many hotels, shops, apartment houses and office buildings. Thousands of people normally come into this area every day, but now, because of the destruction, it is closed off.

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