Focus at Four: Mexico's road to recovery after earthquakes kill hundreds

As the last of the bodies are pulled from the rubble of two earthquakes that hit Mexico in 11 days, the country is beginning its journey to pick up the pieces.

While hundreds of lives were lost, Morten Wendelbo from the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service says that number could have been much higher.

"In 1985, Mexico got hit by an earthquake that killed almost 12,000 people," said Weldelbo, who studies the long-term effects of natural disasters. "It revealed large-scale corruption in the government, in local government and the enforcement of building codes."

Wendelbo says that building standards went up in Mexico after 1985, and that's why the destruction was less this time around.

However, Wendelbo says Mexico still has a long way to go recovering from these twin earthquakes, and bouncing back won't be as easy for lower-income groups.

"Particularly in the south of Mexico, which was hardest hit by both of the earthquakes that recently happened, more than half of the population lives in poverty," said Wendelbo.

Because of those Mexicans' lack of resources, they may have a much harder time recovering from even minor loss. Children could be called home from school to help recoup agricultural losses, nutritious food may be scarce--Wendelbo says every aspect of the victims' lives can be affected.

"In the long term, that affects their prospects for escaping poverty," said Wendelbo. "It's likely to follow for a lot of people in Mexico, and in Puerto Rico, and even in Houston after Harvey."

For the full conversation with Wendelbo, see the video player above. For more of his research on this topic, see the Related Links.