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When Earthquakes Rattle Mexico

News     |    September 29, 2017 by National HQ

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On September 19, 2017, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico, its epicenter some 34 miles south of the city of Puebla, the 4th largest city in the country. The earthquake tragically claimed the lives of over 300 people and caused extensive damage in the states of Puebla and Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area.

The earthquake also struck a painful nerve in the nation, as it occurred on the 32nd anniversary of an even larger catastrophe in Mexico, the magnitude 8.0 earthquake of 1985, which left some 10,000 dead and 30,000 injured.

Just two hours earlier, as is the custom each September 19 since then, a drill of emergency disaster simulations and evacuations was staged in cities across Mexico, with the alert announced over TV, radio, and public loudspeakers. What happened next unnerved everyone.

Tzu Chi’s disaster relief team began planning immediately, and our international group of disaster relief volunteers landed in Mexico just six days later.

Watch for updates as we follow the evolving disaster assessment and relief mission.


Bringing Local Volunteers on Board - October 9, 2017

In order to expand the reach of our disaster assessment and speed up the process, Tzu Chi Relief volunteers are currently conducting local volunteer training sessions in Mexico as well.

After their training is completed, the new volunteers break off into small groups and go from house to house to inspect the condition of the premises, meet residents, and learn of their situation.

In this manner, we are able to more quickly and even more thoroughly prepare lists of families in need in each city, who will then be invited to our upcoming disaster relief distributions which are to begin in November.

During the disaster assessment, our volunteers have also been meeting with local officials and looking at churches and schools which might serve as possible sites for our distributions. We will provide more updates soon.


From City to City, House by House - October 5, 2017

After Jojutla and San Gregorio, Tzu Chi Relief volunteers continued their disaster assessment in four other cities that were heavily impacted by the earthquake – Atencingo, Cuautla, Raboso, and Xochimilco.

In each city, our volunteers are conducting door to door home visits to meet families and learn about their current situation and most pressing needs, while offering moral support and attentive care.

In Xochimilco, some residents impacted by the earthquake are still without clean running water, and the debris of crumbling buildings remains.

They heard the story of three sisters who live on the same premises. Not only are they struggling without water, but because of a property issue, obtaining government aid may prove difficult.

Each family faces its own issues, yet the bottom line is the same – they are struggling since the earthquake, and need support along the long and difficult road to recovery after this catastrophic event.


Disaster Assessment in San Gregorio Atlapulco – September 26-27, 2017

On the second day of our disaster assessment, the team travelled to San Gregorio Atlapulco, a city in the borough of Xochimilco, about an hour’s drive from Mexico City.

As our volunteers walked through town to survey the damage and meet residents, they also coordinated with members of the military, municipal government, and civil organizations to help us determine the most urgent needs, and to request lists of residents affected by this catastrophe.

It soon became evident that medical outreach may be of potential need in San Gregorio, apart from financial aid and disaster relief supplies.

Vehicles equipped for medical care were deployed by local government and are on the scene, and doctors are working day and night to provide emergency services to those who require it. However, medical supplies may become in short supply and due to a lack of electricity and clean drinking water, there are some serious public health concerns.

“There is no water. There is no way to wash their hands. The food they are bringing from the outside lacks refrigeration. It is important now to help especially with medical care.

Jose Ricardo Licona, General Medicine Doctor

It is estimated that around 600 families in San Gregorio were affected by the earthquake, and each has their own burden of hardship to bear. Some, like Iván Bárcenas whose house collapsed in seconds, are now sleeping in the street, and the trauma of September 19 is still a wound that hasn’t begun to heal.

“I was on the second floor and my two children were in their room watching TV. I felt a crunch and ran to their room. We ran downstairs as I hugged them covering ourselves and waited for the worst. The walls began to crumble. Falling and falling to rubble …”

Iván Bárcenas, San Gregorio Resident

Day two of the assessment in San Gregorio was even more heartbreaking, as our volunteers came upon the San Gregorio Church, which has a history spanning 700 years, and discovered that one side of the church collapsed during the tremors and crushed a couple and their child. Tragically, the mother died alongside her daughter, but the father survived, then had a leg amputated.

For so many people impacted by the earthquake, the future is uncertain and the present is beset with suffering and critical needs.

“We need food. If you can help us with blankets, mats, any kind of help is welcome.”

Iván Bárcenas, San Gregorio Resident

We are planning how to best serve this town, as the disaster assessment mission continues.

Disaster Assessment in Jojutla – September 25, 2017

Our disaster assessment began in Jojutla, an old city dating back to 1840, near the epicenter of the earthquake on September 19, 2017.

Around 500 families here lost everything, as some 300 buildings collapsed and many others will be destroyed due to severe damage.

“Buildings here are very vulnerable to earthquake damage so they collapsed easily.”

Stephen Huang, Tzu Chi Volunteer

For some residents, the distress of losing their home is compounded by the severe - and in some cases permanent - injuries family members sustained during the earthquake.

“My property … collapsed and fell on my relatives ... My niece has a fractured spine my nephew, they amputated an arm.”

José Alberto Galván, Jojutla Resident

The situation is dire for many families here. All the schools in town were damaged and are closed, there’s no work or source of income anymore, and residents must figure out how to obtain food each day.

“We need all the basic necessities, oil, rice, beans. The children have nothing, no milk, diapers.”

Azareel Pulido, Jojutla Volunteer

People are supporting each other in any way they can, and strangers are even coming in from other towns to distribute food. It appears that providing rice and other non-perishable food will be a priority here.

Your generosity could mean the world to someone who must now rebuild their life from scratch after this disaster. Help support our relief mission.