Quake recovery slow going

Wearing a hardhat, Rodrigo Diaz Mejia steps onto the hood of a crushed car and then gingerly into an apartment cracked open by the Sept. 19 earthquake. Inside he spots a photo of two young boys hanging on a wall spider-webbed with deep cracks. He puts it under his arm to carry it out for the family.

For weeks, the mechanic by trade has been climbing through broken walls and over buckled floors in the increasingly unstable buildings of the Tokio 517 apartment complex in central Mexico City to emerge with prized photos, clothes and documents for grateful residents. But now, he says, rains and further shifts mean he may have to stop taking the risk.

The buildings "have settled a bit more and the walls have opened a bit more. Things have fallen. They are starting to want to collapse at any moment," he said of the complex of three apartment buildings in the Portales Norte neighbourhood, two of which collapsed.

Thousands of Mexico City residents have been unable to return to their collapsed or severely damaged buildings one month after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake killed 228 people in the capital and many say they have not yet received promised financial assistance.

Hundreds of buildings were evacuated after the quake and efforts to tear down the ones too damaged to be repaired are only just beginning. Crews will strip buildings of anything that could be a hazard and begin the slow process of low-tech demolition in an urban setting.

People forced out of those structures, meanwhile, are staying with relatives, at hotels or even in tents on the street. The government has said it will offer low-interest loans for people to repair homes or seek new lodgings, but that seemingly will be a slow process.

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