Magazine article UN Chronicle

General Assembly Urges International Mobilization for Mexican Earthquake Relief, Reconstruction

Magazine article UN Chronicle

General Assembly Urges International Mobilization for Mexican Earthquake Relief, Reconstruction

Article excerpt

General Assembly urges international mobilization for Mexican earthquake relief, reconstruction

The catastrophic earthquakes which struck Mexico on 19 and 20 September --described as the worst this century in the region--elicited immediate action by the United Nations General Assembly. Its first resolution (40/1) of the fortieth session, adopted unanimously on 24 September, called for international efforts "to counter the devastating effects of the tragedy'.

The Secretary-General was asked "to mobilize resources to contribute to the relief and reconstruction task' undertaken by Mexico. All States were called on to "contribute generously' to those efforts.

Citing the loss of lives, the number of "afflicted persons' and the "enormous destruction wrought by the earthquakes', the Assembly also stated that the "magnitude of the catastrophe' and its long-term effects would require "a demonstration of international solidarity and humanitarian concern' to ensure broad multilateral co-operation to meet the immediate emergency.

The 19 September earthquake, originally reported as registering 7.8 on the Richter scale and subsequently determined to have reached a surface wave magnitude of 8.4, struck at 7.18 a.m. local time. Communications with Mexico City--one of the world's largest cities with a population of 18 million--were cut. Some 36 hours later, a second earthquake of Richter magnitude 7.3 shook the region.

Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar on 19 September, in a telegram to Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, stated he was "deeply distressed' to learn of the earthquake, and assured him the United Nations was at Mexico's disposal to assist it in the emergency and in reconstruction efforts. He also asked the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator (UNDRO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Coordinator in Mexico City to contact the Mexican authorities immediately.

General Assembly President Jaime de Pinies (Spain), in a cable to the Mexican President, conveyed his distress at the news of "casualties and substantial damage in that beloved country'. Mrs. de Pinies, who is Mexican, joined her husband in expressing sympathy and "complete readiness to contribute in every way possible to any international assistance considered necessary', he said. On 20 September Mr. de Pinies, extended deepest sympathy on behalf of all Assembly members.

Following adoption of resolution 40/1, Mexican Foreign Minister Bernardo Sepulveda Amor stated that the moral and material support received from abroad was "not only a sign of esteem', but also "a reflection of the bonds of brotherhood and co-operation we maintain with all nations'. Mexico, he said, found comfort "in the fraternal embrace of the international community'.

UNDRO Co-ordinator M'hamed Essaafi flew to Mexico City on 21 September to evaluate the damage and determine what the United Nations role in assistance could be. During his five-day visit, Mr. Essaafi toured the worst-hit areas of Mexico City and met with Mexican officials, including the Ministers of Interior and of Health and the Deputy Minister of External Relations.

By the end of September, rescue operations were being completed and demolition was beginning. Some 700 rescue teams were still active. It was estimated that 4.5 million tons of debris would have to be removed.

Of the 1.4 million buildings in the city, 411 had been destroyed. Of 1,132 damaged buildings, 417 were to be demolished, 612 were still in use and 103 were to be checked. …

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