Why Did 100 Buildings Fall In Mexico After The Last Earthquake?

Mexican journalists recently published a report that shows corruption and poor adherence to building codes are to blame, not the quakes themselves. 

By Joy DiazSeptember 13, 2018 1:01 pm

It’s been a year since a powerful earthquake shook Mexico City, killing more than 300 people and damaging or collapsing around 100 buildings.

Now, a year later, an award-winning group of investigative journalists called Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity has published a new report titled “Why Did My Building Fall?” It tells the story of buildings that likely wouldn’t have fallen had they been built to standards put in place after the devastating Magnitude 8 quake in September 1985.

Darío Ramírez is director of communication and international affairs for Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity. Ramirez says there were buildings constructed on top of the foundations of old buildings, contributing to the high number of deaths and collapses. Ramirez says this is where corruption in the Mexican government enters the picture. 

“I think the big conclusion was, we have from the investigation, is that the earthquake doesn’t kill, but corruption does,” Ramirez says. “We have a figure who is called D.O.R., which is like the director of the building site …. He’s not a government official; he’s supposed to be a figure of some sort of independence to monitor how the building is being built.”

The lack of supervision on the part of the Mexican government, Ramirez says, is responsible for allowing corruption to work its way through the building process. Ramirez says the investigation found 27 D.O.R.s, or Director Responsable de Obra, on the payroll of building companies.

“The evidence that we’ve put forward to the authorities is that it is possible not only to bring charges to these companies, but also to these D.O.R.s that have fled the country already,” Ramirez says. “There is only one person detained and in process. Many of the people that gave permissions, at least five of them, are in Congress.”

Ramirez says President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives no indication that corruption will improve, despite his promises to the contrary on the campaign trail. 

“In Mexico, every time we have an earthquake, it’s like the first time we have an earthquake,” Ramirez says. “There is a lot of loopholes we have right now that the new administration, if they want to be different, they need to change. The roadmap for that is very clear.”

Written by Brooke Sjoberg.