Mexico’s secretary of tourism, seeking to allay fears of travelers and travel agents, said Monday that the damage done by Thursday’s earthquake and Friday’s aftershock was confined to a relatively small, older section of Mexico City, and most of the city is functioning normally.
Speaking at a Manhattan news conference, Antonio Enriquez Savignac said television pictures and a lack of long-distance communications are giving the false impression that the capital was completely devastated.
The Mexican official said several hotels with 750 rooms had collapsed, but Mexico City has 25,000 hotel rooms. He said half of all tourist reservations to Mexico City have been canceled because of the quake.
“I do not wish to minimize the magnitude of the earthquake or its impact on the people within the pockets of destruction,” Enriquez said. “Many of the television reports seen outside Mexico, however, tend to give the impression that the capital was completely devastated. That impression is incorrect.
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Enriquez said that the local telephone system is operating, but he conceded that it could be weeks before international long-distance phone and telecommunications services are fully restored.
Most long-distance phone equipment was in buildings that were leveled or badly damaged, he noted. A team of 50 specialists from the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. were in the capital Monday assessing the situation.
“The lack of communications should not lead to an overconcern,” he said.
Enriquez said Cabinet ministers have been asked to re-channel money from their department budgets into a special governmental fund to help pay for rescue and rebuilding. The cost of the earthquake, he said, is still uncertain and it is too early to predict how much will have to be spent.
Stressing that “98% of the city maintained its integrity,” Enriquez said that all of the nation’s 53 airports are functioning normally and highways are open.
Nevertheless, he said the quake has had a serious impact on Mexico’s $2.2-billion tourist industry. “We have had a high number of cancellations to Mexico City. As this very deep tragedy is put into perspective, people will realize Mexico City is a functioning city.”