Mexican town shakes off shock after quake, begins to move forward

The volunteers erupted into patriotic cheers

By IVAN WATSON , NATALIE GALLĂ“N , JO SHELLEY AND BRAD OLSON , CNN
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JOJUTLA, Mexico (CNN) - Days after a deadly earthquake battered the small market town of Jojutla, collective shock and fear have already given way to the gritty work of cleaning up and moving forward.

Businesses and homes in the Mexican town's center were mostly shuttered and dark Thursday night.

Family members sitting with a caged parakeet on the sidewalk outside their home told CNN it was too dangerous to sleep inside, for fear of aftershocks that could topple the cracked foundations of the colonial era, two-story house.

Municipal workers aided by squads of volunteers had already cleared debris from almost all of Jojutla's main roads. Armed soldiers and police patrolled neighborhoods after night fell, roping off once-bustling streets with three- and four-story commercial buildings leaning dangerously, due to cracked facades and damaged foundations.

Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake turned the town's iconic bell tower into debris and damaged its market, which is crucial to the local economy.

Speaking with CNN affiliate Foro TV, Graco Ramírez, governor of Morelos state, said that a "significant part of Jojutla is destroyed." The town is just 45 miles west-northwest of the quake's epicenter.

Late into the night, bands of volunteers wearing reflective orange vests and construction helmets roamed through the town, distributing sandwiches and water.

"I came to help my countrymen," said Rolando Martinez Cruz, a 34-year-old volunteer from the suburbs of Mexico City.

He said he and several dozen other volunteers from his community jumped into two large dump trucks on the day of the earthquake and drove south to help.

On Thursday, they were hard at work, shoveling bricks and concrete from a collapsed house into one of the waiting trucks.

"I've been up working since 5 a.m.," Cruz said.

At one point, the volunteers erupted into patriotic cheers as one of the dump trucks left the neighborhood, "Jojutla, Jojutla! Ra, ra, ra!"

All along the highway running south from Mexico City into quake-stricken Morelos state, where at least 73 people died, convoys of volunteers can be seen driving cars decorated with handwritten signs saying "viveros" and "acopio movil," bringing aid and donations to damaged communities.

Melissa Tapia, 25, had been helping as a volunteer since the earthquake happened. She lives in the nearby hilltop town of Cuernavaca, badly shaken by the earthquake, which killed more than 250 people throughout the country.

She expressed concern about the rationing of aid, saying that people who want to help should get supplies to families directly because the centers for aid are not helping.

"I saw a woman ask for a bar of soap for her family and they grabbed a bar, cut it in four (pieces) and gave her a small chunk," Tapia said. "They're rationing too much."

The number of soldiers and volunteers in Jojutla has gone up since President Enrique Peña Nieto visited Wednesday, giving residents his word that federal resources would be directed to help those in need.

Amid the damage and recovery efforts, there have also been moments of humor.

Next to the ruins of four adjoining two-story homes that collapsed, a passerby was overheard saying as he pointed at the mound of bricks and mortar, "Well, now (US President Donald) Trump has a lot to build his (border) wall."

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