Mexico quake damage could surpass $2 billion

MEXICO CITY (AP) - President Enrique Pena Nieto said Wednesday that preliminary accounting of the damage caused by the two big earthquakes that hit Mexico this month could cost upward of $2 billion (38.1 billion pesos).

Pena Nieto stressed that damage assessments were continuing, especially in hard-hit Mexico City. But preliminary estimates put repairing and rebuilding schools in several states and the capital at nearly $750 million (13.6 billion pesos).

Repairing and rebuilding homes will be $550 million (10 billion pesos). Damage to cultural sites could reach $440 million (8 billion pesos).

The government is making direct electronic transfers to victims of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake and aftershocks in Chiapas and Oaxaca to the tune of $356 million (6.5 billion pesos) so they can begin repairing their homes.

"I hope that in the new year we will be able to have also a new Mexico, rebuilt and in normal conditions," Pena Nieto said.

Authorities raised the death toll from last week's magnitude 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico to 338 on Wednesday.

National Civil Defense chief Luis Felipe Puente reported on Twitter that the dead included 199 in Mexico City.

He said there were also 74 in Morelos state, 45 in Puebla state, 13 in the State of Mexico, six in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca state.

The Sept. 19 quake collapsed at least 38 buildings in the capital, and search efforts continued at some sites.

It followed the even stronger earthquake less than two weeks earlier off the country's southern Pacific coast that especially hit Chiapas and Oaxaca. That one killed nearly 100 people.