Regional News Topics, the San Felipe Economy and more.....
...by Tony Colleraine
Thursday 22 April
I am sorry to be off-line so much but these hospital stays really take lots of time and energy.
One of our old real estate developers appears to be coming back into the market. Dave LaBarre of Mi Casa del Mar (at La Hacienda) has announced that their latest project "Beach Front Community" is now in its final stage and is being rushed with deposits. Good news indeed!! See his press release here..>>
Earthquake activity on the Mexico-California border continues and the trend of the recent tremors is to move further north on the faultline towards the Elsinore fault in San Diego county. Two quakes, a 4.6 and 4.7 magnitude, struck 20 miles west of Mexicali this morning but were not felt in San Felipe. Overall there have been some 76 small earthquakes in the past ten hours.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Baja California, Jose Guadelupe Osuna Millan, has announced that there are now sufficient supplies donated to cover all of the earthquake victims. He said that no more gifts of food or other perishable materials are wanted as there is a likelihood that they could spoil now that the rising temperatures are here in Mexicali. Some 120 houses in the city and about 500 in the valley agricultural areas have been declared unsafe and will be demolished. Also 178 schools have been damaged and are closed at this time. Repairs have been completed to the Reforma agricultural canal and today a flow of 12000 liters/second has been reestablished to the farming communities.
The Government of Mexico has admitted that theft of personal information via internet is epedemic. The electoral records and voter registration lists appear to have been broken into, exposing the details of millions of citizens. It is also widely acknowledged that most residents download pirated software, music, movies and graphics files. The result is that there are viruses, trojan horses and malware on most personal computers in the country. Again, I advise people to not use public computers or open wi-fi networks to do any banking or sensitive transactions. Theft of Gmail passwords seems to be one of the most active exploits. So many people now have shopping data and credit card statements sent to their gmail boxes that this is a very lucrative source of identity theft.
This mornings thunderstorms and rain in the mountains has caused a lot of accidents on the Tijuana-Mexicali highway in the region of La Rumorosa and also on Interstate-8 in San Diego. The inclement weather is expected to leave the region by tonight. We only had a light shower (0.06 inches) in San Felipe yesterday.
Sunday 17 April
San Felipe is still quiet in the aftermath of the 7.2M earthquake on 4 April outside Mexicali. Aftershocks continue and there is around 1 big jolt every day in the Mexicali area, but essentially nothing felt in San Felipe. Only now, two weeks later, is a clearer picture beginning to emerge of how much devastation has been caused. The Baja California government prepared a list of priority needs that can be channeled through the Public Relations Office or International Affairs, as well as opening bank accounts to receive cash donations.
The Consul General of Mexico in Laredo, Miguel Angel Isidro, began broadcasting this campaign of support for the 25 thousand people affected by this phenomenon of nature. The list of items needed in the Mexicali Valley includes bedding, blankets, sleeping bags, generators, lighting equipment, bottled water, toilet paper, soap, women's pads, tents and flashlights. Other required items are batteries, extension cords, plastic plates, medicines, diapers for babies and adults, gas stoves and mosquito repellent.
A special account for receiving monetary donations was opened in the name of The San Felipe Rotary Foundation at the Wells Fargo Bank, its number is 6123425255. For more information please call (956) 723-0990.
Tuesday 13 April
There have now been over 3000 aftershocks from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 4th. April, though only 700 have been magnitude 3 and higher that would likely be felt by a casual bystander. Virtually all of these have gone unnoticed in San Felipe as only 8 have been over magnitude 5. Incidentally, if you think that you felt a minor earthquake, the simplest way to confirm that something happened is to look at the water level in your 5 gallon water bottle in the kitchen (a garrafon) and see if it is sloshing around. The government of Mexico is now conducting more detailed surveys of the region around the earthquake epicenter that is located some 6 km east of the San Felipe highway in the Colonia Oaxaca area of the Mexicali valley.
In some areas the land slipped vertically around six feet (above photo by Borrego Rupture mapping Team) and has changed the flow of water in canals and in the Colorado delta!
The agricultural canal system has been very badly damaged and there has been total destruction of most of the houses in the region. Families who stay will be paid 216 pesos/day to rebuild their dwellings with materials provided by the government. The 128 state senators each agreed to give up a days salary (about 3300 pesos) to make up a fund of some 400,000 pesos to help the homeless.
The San Felipe road is in operation and traffic is flowing freely. Repairs will mean that there will be single lane operations in places but no undue delays are anticipated.
In a move to stimulate tourism throughout Mexico, the Commissioner of the National Immigration Institute (INM) has announced that as of 1st. May, foreigners from any country may enter Mexico for up to 6 months providing they already have a valid US visa. Meanwhile, a new manual of procedures is being developed to provide for a single form for issuance of a visa that will be compliant with all countries that have reciprocal relationships with Mexico.
Friday 9 April
Photos of some of the damage caused by the Easter Day 7.2M earthquake are now circulating and Mr. Ragtime sent me these shots assembled by Armando R. Lara Valle :
Pavement damage in downtown Mexicali
A local neighborhood street on the city outskirts
Damage to an irrigation canal south of Mexicali. Cerro Prieto is in the background.
Pavement break at km 20 on the highway from Mexicali to Tijuana
Emergency repairs on the San Felipe road (where there is similar damage to the pavement pictures shown above) is underway between km 20 and km 38 south of Mexicali. In addition, work is underway to create an off-road diversion between km 38 and 49 to allow repairs to be made on this stretch.
The RENAUT registration of all Mexican mobile phones still has a deadline of midnight on 10 April. Cellphones that you bought before April 2009 which have not been registered by the deadline will, theoretically, be disconnected. However there has been such an outcry from the mobile phone operators about the last minute rush from hundreds of thousands of customers who have not been able to register, that some face-saving solution between the government and the phone companies is being sought. For background on this matter and possible ways for you to complete your registration, see Rob Hoare's article here ..>>
Wednesday 7 April
Although things are a mess, Mexicali and Calexico are both returning to normal. The streets are clear though you may see a number of buildings in these cities with cracks in the walls. Get gasoline before you cross into Mexicali in case the station you would stop at there has not had a delivery or if its electricity is out. Gas up when you get to San Felipe in case there are delays with the Pemex deliveries for the next couple of weeks.
There are emergency repairs underway on the highway to San Felipe, follow any marked detours and drive slowly. Keep a lookout for holes in the asphalt as aftershocks continue. As always, do not drive at night. Aftershocks continue (latest count is 708) and some of them are big enough to cause more buckling of the asphalt paving on the roads.
There is extensive damage of the fishing camps in the Rio Hardy area just south of Mexicali. These were very close to the epicenter of the earthquake.
Banks are open again and ATMs are working pretty much as usual. Note that there are periodic disruptions in communications as networks are checked out and as hackers try to use the disruptions to probe for weaknesses. If the bank ATM does not give you cash, there is probably a drop in the communications link. Make a note of the bank and the date and time so you can challenge any withdrawls from your account that were not completed by you. Use credit cards only if absolutely necessary until everything is stable. Personally, I would not use local computers or wi-fi spots to do banking or financial transactions at this time. Consider signing up with your issuing bank for text alerts to your cellphones of any transactions.
The weather is going to be beautiful when these winds drop. Late April through mid-June is the perfect time for a vacation here.
Tuesday 6 April
The Mexicali-Calexico downtown crossing to California has reopened this morning. Both the regular and SENTRI lanes are in operation.
Banks in Mexicali and San Felipe are temporarily closed for the earthquake emergency period. Bring cash!
Let me repeat that there is no damage in San Felipe.
Failure of agricultural canals around Ejido Nuevo Leon has resulted in flooding of thousands of acres of land close to the Mexicali-San Felipe highway in the neighborhood of km 40. An estimate is that 20 km of the San Felipe road will have to undergo extensive repair at a cost of around 6 million pesos/km. Overall, 150 km of roads and several bridges around Mexicali will require repair.
Some 35,000 people in the Mexicali area are still without water but electricity has been restored to 95% of the customers. Estimates are that 25,000 people are homeless.
Donations to the Red Cross will be very much appreciated..>>
Monday 5 April
1 p.m. The road between San Felipe and Mexicali is now open but has sustained damage. Be very careful around km 45 where agricultural water from the canals has overflowed and weakened the road. Signs have been erected and the area is being patrolled for additional security and safety. President Felipe Calderon will be in Mexicali shortly to inspect and coordinate actions of various emergency services.
Drive very carefully. An aftershock, or even another large earthquake, could occur at any time and you do not want to be thrown off the road and have your car damaged. Call 078 on your cellphone for the very latest information when you are on the road (free call). Note that the downtown Mexicali-Calexico crossing northbound into California is still closed - use the East (new) crossing for northbound passage.
It is believed that two people died in Mexicali as a result of the earthquake and another two had heart attacks resulting from the stress. Some 233 people are known to have been injured. Electric power has been restored in most of the city and water pressure is returning. Some 11 fires, probably resulting from propane leaks, have occurred.
12:30 p.m. So far some 350 aftershocks have occurred from yesterday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Several of these have been magnitude 5 events and are along the highway between Mexicali and San Felipe as you can see in this Google map. The highway is the thin yellow line running north-south in the figure and you can also see the epicenter of the great earthquake (large yellow circle) is quite close to the road. The section of map shown is about 20 miles south of Mexicali:
One concern is that if you are driving on this highway when another aftershock occurs, you could have your vehicle go off the road. The latest information I have is that traffic north from San Felipe is getting through but there is no word on whether southbound traffic is presently allowed to proceed.
I have talked to people in Ensenada this morning and they say that the Ensenada-San Felipe highway is open and you will not notice any damage because you will be too busy watching out for potholes. The toll road from Tijuana to Enseanda has no damage so a possible route for visitors from California who wish to avoid any possible seismicity on the road is San Diego-Tijuana-Ensenada-San Felipe.
Sunday 4 April
11:30 p.m. A parking garage at the city hall in Mexicali is reported to have collapsed but no injuries have been reported. There is also structural damage to the Mexicali water system. The Crown Plaza Hotel in Mexicali has minor damage. Electricity is reported to still be off and the result is that most of the government information servers are unavailable. Here are a few key telephone numbers in Mexicali for people who will be travelling through the city on Monday:
Mexicali Tourist office (011-52)-(686) 566-1277.
Conventions and Tourism bureau (686)-551-9800 (in Mexicali) or (686)-577-2300 (in San Felipe).
San Felipe police department (686) 577-1134
San Felipe Fire Department (has road conditions) (686) 577-1182 (corrected)
San Felipe Mayor's Office:(686) 577-1021
Frequent internet outages are occurring in San Felipe as a result of disruption of the network in the Mexicali area and the power outages there.
9 p.m. The Mexicali Road is closed at La Ventana and traffic north is being turned back to San Felipe. No word on whether the Ensenada Road is also closed but that would be the only other possible route for people returning to California or the border region.
(11:30 p.m.) I hear that construction equipment from the road upgrade project around the Ensenada Road junction is already being used to clear the path at La Ventana.
A very strong earthquake hit Baja California, about 19 miles south of Mexicali this afternoon around 3:40 p.m. THe rupture was 6.2 miles deep. The 7.2 Magnitude quake is one of the most powerful to hit the region in 20 years. (The large blue rectangle in the diagram below). There have been many lesser magnitude earthquakes since that time.
A strong rolling effect was felt both in San Felipe and througout northern Baja and Southern California. San Felipe reported severe shaking of houses and some cracking of walls in a few houses. No injuries or deaths were reported in San Felipe and all electricity, phone and public services appear to be in operation. Crowds from the Easter holidys were heading out of San Felipe for Mexicali and Tijuana at the time. Aftershocks of magnitude 5 and above have been occurring all evening. Caltech is predicting large aftershocks, between magnitude 6 and 7 will continue to occur.
Extensive damage is reported in Mexicali with some roads buckled and many buildings showing signs of damage. Water and power were shut off and it is expected that electricity will be restored by 8 p.m. this evening. The main hospital in the city suffered structural damage and patients are being evacuated. The downtown border crossing back to the USA has been impacted by damage to the pedestrian crossing to Calexico. Pedestrians are having to use the vehicular lanes to cross. Two deaths have been reported in Baja. Gasoline stations and shops were temporarily closed as a precaution. There are reports of people being trapped in collapsed houses.
The highway between Mexicali and Tijuana was closed at La Rumorosa (km 80) because of a highway collapse and several vehicle crashes.
Calexico has also experienced significant damage and power, phone and cellular were out for several hours. The Family Style Buffet is reported to have collapsed. Westbound I-8 has been closed between Forrester and Dunaway. Power went out in all of the Imperial Valley for much of the afternoon. The Border Patrol now indicates (8 p.m.) that the downtown crossing at Calexico-Mexicali has now been closed but pedestrian traffic is being allowed. The east crossing is open to vehicles with a 1 hour wait time. Border Patrol officers closed off parts of First and Second streets in Calexico because of structural concerns about some of the buildings.
El Centro reports that 25% of shop windows have been broken by the earthquake.
San Diego residents reported very strong rolling and there has been some damage to buildings in downtown San Diego. Cracks have been observed in the Sheraton on Harbor drive.
Power has been interrupted to residents of Borrego Springs and Dana Point.
Friday 26 March
On the eve of the National vacation for Easter Week, the Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (Cofepris) has released its annual report on the quality of seawater for the beaches of Mexico. A health risk to bathers is indicated when the number of coliform bacteria colonies exceeds 200 per 100 ml of water. Some areas along San Felipe's north beach strip are identified as being above this limit by around 50%, so swimmers in those areas should be careful to avoid ingesting any sea water and also avoid getting it in their nose, eyes and ears. Taking a warm shower and using soap and shampoo after swimming is generally recommended. La Cronica lists the beaches as being those south from Cerro El Moreno (by the shrimp farm) southwards towards the town. As always, the farther south you go, the cleaner the water is. ...>>
Thursday 25 March
President Felipe Calderon announced this week that a great new international airport would be built 15 km west of Tulum on the Yucatan peninsular to cope with the increasing tourism and business convention traffic that is expected to drive the development of that region for many years to come. The airport will have an 11,500 foot runway and be able to handle 3 million passengers per year. This Riviera Maya section of the coast currently has 37 thousand rooms, some 10,000 more than Cancun. The new airport investment will be close to 300 million dollars and in addition there will be major upgrades of the highway and toll-road system in the area. ..>>
Last week, La Prensa San Diego reported that Baja emergency responders had been stressed by the past year of natural disasters in the state. Torrential winter rains, in particular, have prompted disaster declarations from Tijuana to San Quinten on the west coast of the peninsular.
Samuel Chavez Pelayo, chief of the Baja California Red Cross, is reported to have said that a funding crisis could result in the closure of Red Cross facilities in San Felipe and San Quintin. In 2009, the Red Cross was forced to shut down its San Felipe center for two weeks.
According to Chavez, the Baja Red Cross collected only about $100,000 in donations last year. He attributed the low contributions to the economic crisis. Private donations sustain much of the state Red Cross’ operations. The Governor, Jose Guadalupe Osuna, has donated about $100,000 to help support the Red Cross’ work, but their growing workload will likely outstrip the available resources as they cater to more coverage of emergency work in Tijuana and Mexical hospitals and get called to assist with growing environmental hazards that result from the shipment and use of toxic chemicals in border-area factories.
The situation for San Felipe is particularly important as we no longer have the Hospital San Felipe (formerly St. James Hospital) in business to help with the medical emergencies that occur in our region.
The National Red Cross Organization, which plays a leadership role in Mexican health care policy formulation, also announced in Mexico City that antibiotics will no longer be sold in Mexican pharmacies without a doctors prescription starting sometime in April. This is a major change in policy that has been brought about by too much "self-medication" in the population. Too little attention has been paid to the rise of drug-resistant diseases as a result of people failing to complete the full and necessary course of treatment to kill their infections.
In another bombshell that was dropped today, the head of the COFEPRIS agency (Federal commission for protection against health risks) in Mexico City, Miguel Angel Toscano, declared that after the action to ban the sale of antibiotics takes effect, the agency will then ban the sale of all pharmecutical drugs without a prescription. This will have a major effect on "medical tourism", particularly in such border towns as Los Algodones, across from Yuma, where medication purchases by American retirees account for some $20-40 million per year in income.
Also announced this morning: The National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission (CONAPESCA) issued a notice closing the season on all species of shrimp fishing in the Mexican Pacific waters and in the Gulf of California as of 31 March. This is for fishery management and species conservation reasons.
Earlier this month, on March 1st., the US Department of State denied Mexico the certification needed to export wild shrimp to the USA. The ban will begin on 20th. April. This is because the shrimp fleet in Mexico does not yet comply with the use of nets that exclude turtles through the incorporation of TED's (turtle excluding devices).
Wednesday 24 March
I have decided to re-vamp many of our web pages, starting with this news page. Katherine gets too much flack from people who criticize her for comments I make as a result of the emails I get. Katherine only posts to Kats Korner, which is now a separate website.
Even though my "inbox" gets dozens of letters each day, I try hard to answer everyone's questions personally. Many of these letters request details of the business climate here, the safety of traveling to this region of Baja and the effect that the recession is having on the real estate market. There is, understandably, a lot of concern expressed by potential visitors and investors who are anxious about what is happening in Mexico and I plan to write periodic articles on the situation as it affects San Felipe.
In addition, there is an unusual amount of mail from people in many parts of the US who have lost their houses and jobs and are looking to move to Mexico as a place where they have heard it is possible to live extremely cheaply. The short answer to this is that San Felipe is not cheap and may not be the ideal place for someone who expects to work here and support a wife and children. Again, I plan to address this issue of coming to Mexico as a worker rather than as a "retiree".
Today's factoid is that the Senate in Mexico City has welcomed a proposal from the National Governors Conference (CONAGO) to eliminate the municipal police and make all local law enforcement personnel into state police. It is understood that the cabinet of President Felipe Calderón also supports this proposal as it would achieve better coordination and control of the National and State law enforcement agencies. Effectively it would condense some 1500 police entities down to 33...>>
previous months news - El Nino, drug cartel operations, the Chile earthquake, tightening of border crossing regulations, the Baja 250, tourism decline..
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