For somebody who knows well the city of Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo León, to see the images of the city completely devastated is more than shocking.
Monterrey, and more than 50 municipalities in the northern states of Nuevo León, Coahuila and Tamaulipas were severely affected by Hurricane Alex, which destroyed highways, streets, schools, houses, government offices, industries and everything possible on its way last week. Just to get you an idea of its strength, Monterrey received in three days more than the total amount of rain that would have receive normally in one year. The images -sent by people through Internet- speak by themselves
Surprisingly, just 15 people (as today) have been reported dead in the three states as result of the intense rain, but more than 80,000 are reported homeless, while several areas are still without power and potable water. The damages to the states’ infrastructure are estimated in more than $800 million, and an insurance company estimated the amount of damages suffered by private corporations in more than $100 million.
While watching the images of destruction I couldn’t avoid thinking of Hurricane Gilbert, which hit the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico in September of 1988, killing more than 300 people, the majority of them in Monterrey.
When Gilbert hit Mexico, the “disaster preparedness culture” was almost non-existent in the country. It was 1988, just three years after the 8.1 earthquake that struck Mexico City leaving more than 10,000 dead.
The earthquake left so many lessons for Mexicans, among them, the value of solidarity and prevention. Although nobody can predict when exactly there will be an earthquake, people have learnt how to react when the earth’s movements begin. And the same can be said about hurricanes. Many years ago, people wouldn’t attend the authorities’ call to evacuate an area on the eve of a natural disaster, but little by little, people have understand that it is more worthy to prevent than to regret.
The people from Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Coahuila will need a lot of help to restore the normality of their lives. In spite of that, they can feel fortunate of having survived the strength of Alex and the destruction that it left.
However, the three states will face a hard time to completely recover from this disaster, but let’s not forget that Alex was the first Atlantic storm for the 2010 Hurricane season. Bonnie, the second hurricane of the season, will hit Mexico this Wednesday, while Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona and 20 more hurricanes are still waiting for they turn to show up and to make us feel the immense power of nature.