A new in-depth investigation by Mexican newspaper Milenio has revealed that basic information about the safety of Mexico City buildings in the wake of last month’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake is not readily available.
People are finding it difficult and sometimes impossible to gather the background information on damaged buildings that, under law, should be publicly available and transparent via websites or city government offices.
Roughly 38 buildings collapsed and over a thousand buildings and homes were severely affected by the earthquake, Milenio reported.
All neighborhood governments as well as city-level agencies should have files on all buildings that include architectural and structural plans as well as audits and building licensing. This information, which can potentially help residents obtain reconstruction loans or help them in lawsuits or other legal procedures, is not readily available.
Resident representatives in the Benito Juarez neighborhood, for example, are trying to file a lawsuit against two real estate companies regarding two fallen buildings in their area. However, they can’t complete the file because authorities aren’t providing the building's original architectural plans.
Only two neighborhoods are providing this information via their websites. Meanwhile, at least six neighborhood-level governments aren’t providing building information on their websites.
Twenty one government agencies, including the Urban Development and Housing Department, SEDUVI, which oversees the buildings have been constructed to code, shut down public access to buildings information on their individual websites.
There’s also major confusion and overlap between governmental agencies. In trying to find information on ground and soil stability where fallen buildings had been constructed, residents and investigators contacted the Secretary of Civil Protection. The secretary responded that it didn’t have the information, so the request was sent to another neighborhood official and the Secretary of Urban Development and Housing, which has yet to provide findings.
Since 2014 residents in certain neighborhoods have said there is a “conflict of interest” where city housing authority officials are also high-level real estate company directors.
The official number of deaths in the quake remains at 269.