Israeli rescue team applauded in the streets of Mexico

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli rescue team applauded in the streets of Mexico

Dozens of individuals, some waving Mexican flags, spontaneously cheer delegation that is aiding in the search for survivors following earthquake

  • Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, three days after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (iAid)
    Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, three days after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (iAid)
  • Rescuers from Mexico and Israel (olive green) search for survivors in a flattened building in Mexico City on September 21, 2017 two days after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (AFP / Ronaldo SCHEMIDT)
    Rescuers from Mexico and Israel (olive green) search for survivors in a flattened building in Mexico City on September 21, 2017 two days after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (AFP / Ronaldo SCHEMIDT)
  • Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
    Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
  • Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
    Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
  • Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
    Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
  • Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
    Rescuers from Mexico and Israel search for survivors on September 22, 2017, 3 days after a strong quake hit central Mexico (iAid)
  • A man is pulled out of the rubble alive in Mexico City on September 20, 2017 as the search for survivors continues a day after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (AFP PHOTO / Pedro PARDO)
    A man is pulled out of the rubble alive in Mexico City on September 20, 2017 as the search for survivors continues a day after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (AFP PHOTO / Pedro PARDO)
  • Israeli rescue workers are present as the body of Maria Ortiz, who survived the earthquake in Mexico City but died before the rescuers could get to her, is removed on September 22, 2017, three days after the powerful quake that hit central Mexico. (AFP PHOTO / Pedro Pardo)
    Israeli rescue workers are present as the body of Maria Ortiz, who survived the earthquake in Mexico City but died before the rescuers could get to her, is removed on September 22, 2017, three days after the powerful quake that hit central Mexico. (AFP PHOTO / Pedro Pardo)

An Israeli rescue delegation was greeted with spontaneous applause in the streets of a Mexican town Friday, in a show of gratitude for the team’s efforts to aid in the search for survivors following a devastating earthquake Tuesday.

In a video published by Channel 2, dozens of individuals, some waving Mexican flags, can be seen cheering the Israeli rescue team as the delegation crosses their path in a town hit by the earthquake.

A 71-member Israeli delegation from the Home Front Command arrived in Mexico on Thursday, some 48 hours after the 7.1-magnitude quake hit. Two Israeli aid organizations — IsraAID and iAid — also sent delegations to help with the search and rescue efforts.

Anxiety was mounting on Friday as Mexico approached the crucial 72-hour mark after the powerful tremor, and exhausted rescuers raced to locate possible survivors trapped in the rubble.

Authorities put the death toll from Tuesday’s quake at 286 people, but it was expected to rise further with scores still missing in Mexico City.

The Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday that the 71-member delegation was made up of a small search and rescue team, with a majority being engineers who would help assess the structural integrity of buildings in Mexico City and other affected areas.

Locals rescuers said the Israeli teams came with equipment enabling them to detect cell phone signals in the rubble.

Israel did not set up a field hospital yet, but the army has said this could be added in the future.

Members of the 71-member Israeli delegation from the IDF Home Front Command arrive in Mexico on September 21, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel is often one of the first countries to send humanitarian delegations to countries hit by natural disasters.

Israeli disaster relief delegations provided rescue and medical services after an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and, most recently, an earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

The delegation is slated to return on September 29, ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, the spokesperson said. The IDF chief rabbi granted the delegation special dispensation to travel, as the team was in the air during the Jewish Rosh Hashanah holiday, when such activities are generally avoided under religious law.

Members of the Israeli aid delegation from the IDF Home Front Command arrive in Mexico City, September 21, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Families in waiting

Anguished families watching and waiting at buildings that collapsed with their loved ones inside pleaded with authorities not to send in the bulldozers while there is still hope people could be alive inside — something the government vowed not to do.

“We know she’s alive and we’re not leaving until she leaves with us,” said Olinca Gonzalez, 29, whose father’s wife worked in a Mexico City building that was flattened in the quake.

Families were already circulating fliers reading, “No heavy machinery.”

A crushed car and sofas are seen under a pile of rubble from a collapsed building in Mexico City on September 21, 2017, two days after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (AFP/Pedro Pardo)

President Enrique Pena Nieto promised authorities were not giving up the search.

Experts say the average survival time in such disasters is 72 hours, depending on injuries. But trapped survivors have been known to hang on for many days more, including after a massive earthquake that devastated Mexico City in 1985, killing more than 10,000 people.

The 72-hour period will be up at 1:14 p.m. (18:14 GMT) Friday.

“The rescue and support effort in the buildings that collapsed is still on,” Pena Nieto said during a visit to the state of Puebla, where the epicenter was.

“We are not suspending it. We have to keep up the rescue effort to keep finding survivors in the rubble.”

Volunteer rescuers working through their third straight night fought off growing fatigue to remove tons of rubble at dozens of flattened buildings in the capital and across several central states.

In the capital’s central neighborhood of Roma, rescue workers scrambled to locate 23 people believed to be in the wreckage of a collapsed seven-story office building.

They have already pulled 28 survivors from the mountain of rubble.

Aaron Flores’s sister Karen and friend Paulino Estrada were both trapped inside.

Estrada managed to contact his family by cellphone, even making a video call. But there has been no news from Karen Flores.

“We’re feeling disoriented and desperate because we haven’t heard anything from her,” said her brother, 30.

Soldiers and volunteers remove a crushed car from the rubble in Mexico City on September 22, 2017, three days after a strong quake hit central Mexico. (AFP/ Alfredo Estrella)

At other locations, hope turned to grief.

“At 1:00 p.m. they pulled my mother’s body out of the debris, but identified her under a different name, and it wasn’t until 5:00 p.m. that they gave us the bad news,” said Maria Dolores Martinez, 38, at a Mexico City morgue.

But real stories of hope continued to emerge from the ruins.

In the north of the city, a man who had been trapped for 26 hours — and a 90-year-old woman — were pulled alive from the rubble.

Rescue teams have flown in from the US, Israel, Japan, Spain and numerous Latin American countries.

As rescuers race against the clock to find survivors, others wondered where they will live after the quake damaged an estimated 20,000 homes.

“I’m waiting for the civil protection service to tell me if we can go home or not,” said street vendor Erika Albarran, who has been staying with her family in a shelter for people with no place to go.

Her family has only 100 pesos ($5.50) among them and she doesn’t know how they will manage once assistance such as food, shelter and baby supplies runs out.

“We don’t have cash. We’re living day-to-day,” she said.

Tuesday’s tragedy struck just two hours after Mexico held a national earthquake drill — as it does every year on the anniversary of the 1985 quake.

READ MORE:

Strong earthquake shakes Mexico, killing at least 119 people

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Strong earthquake shakes Mexico, killing at least 119 people

 Play Video 1:31
People flee onto streets of Mexico City after powerful earthquake
A 7.1-magnitude earthquake sent people in Mexico City into the streets on Sept. 19, the anniversary of another powerful quake. (Sarah Parnass, Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post)
 September 19 at 7:55 PM
 A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and killing dozens of people on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City.Coming less than two weeks after a deadly temblor off the country’s Pacific coast, and just hours after a siren signaled an annual earthquake drill in the capital, Tuesday’s quake shook the ground with terrifying force, buckling walls and sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets. There were reports of fires and gas leaks.

At least 119 people were reported killed, local officials and news agencies reported. They included 54 people in Morelos state south of Mexico City, 26 in the state of Puebla, nine in the state of Mexico — which surrounds the capital — and 30 in Mexico City.

Residents feared more people were buried under rubble. At least 44 buildings collapsed or partly collapsed in the quake, according to Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera. In the central Mexico City neighborhood of Del Valle, a frantic scene played out Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of people gathered to search for trapped residents. At least two multistory apartment buildings fell, and residents said dozens of people could have been inside. Marines, medical volunteers and regular citizens formed lines to pass trash cans, plastic crates, and plastic barrels to remove debris.

Rescue workers carried at least one person out on a stretcher while helicopters circled.

Victor Arrecha, 25, who lived nearby, said he feared that up to 40 people might have been trapped inside one of the buildings.

“My friends lived there,” he said, looking at the pancaked apartment building directly in front of his house.

Elsewhere, dozens of people were rescued from collapsed buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 76 miles southeast of the capital, near the town of Raboso in Puebla. (The epicenter is the point on the earth’s surface directly above where the earthquake occurs.) The quake struck at 1:14 p.m. local time, the agency said. There appeared to be widespread damage, including to a major highway connecting Mexico City to Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos, about 35 miles to the south. Authorities closed the Mexico City airport to inspect it for damage.

At the Clínica Gabriel Mancera in Mexico City, more than a dozen hospital beds had been set up on the patio outside as a triage center on Tuesday afternoon. Leticia Gonzalez, a 45-year-old maid in a nearby apartment building, said she tried to race out of the building but that concrete crashed down as she fled. Her right leg was wrapped in a bandage as she grimaced in pain outside the hospital.

“We were all running like crazy,” she said. “This was the worst earthquake I’ve ever seen.”

Marisela Avila Gomez, 58, was in her apartment in the central Narvarte neighborhood in the capital when the shaking began, toppling her furniture and shattering the windows. A piece of glass sliced deep into her right leg.

“My whole house is full of blood,” she said.

Her husband, Francisco Vicente Lozada Garcia, 55, a landscaper, tried to drive across town to get to his wife, but traffic was snarled and the “street felt like gelatin.”

The couple eventually made it to the Clínica Gabriel Mancera, where Avila Gomez was treated.

The earthquake struck less than two weeks after the 8.1-magnitude quake off the Pacific coast of southern Mexico. Scientists said the same large-scale tectonic mechanism caused both events: The larger North American Plate is forcing the edge of the Cocos Plate to sink. This collision generated both quakes. But it was unlikely that the quake earlier this month caused Tuesday’s disaster.

“In general, we don’t think there’s a triggering effect over that kind of a distance,” said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the USGS. In California, he said, there have been earthquakes that set off quakes tens of miles away and within hours. This distance was farther and the timeline longer. The recent Mexico quakes also did not share a fault line, he said.

Mexico City is partially built on old lake sediment, which is much softer than rock. The seismic waves can be amplified traveling through the sediment, Blakeman said, making the damage worse than in areas on more solid ground. He said aftershocks were possible, too. The rupture was approximately 50 kilometers, or 31 miles deep, and as a rule, the shallower an earthquake is, the higher the chance for aftershocks. “Fifty kilometers is pretty shallow, so I would expect aftershocks,” Blakeman said.

The USGS’s model for estimating earthquake damage predicts 100 to 1,000 fatalities and economic losses of between $100 million and $1 billion for a temblor of this scale and proximity to population centers.

The quake shook Mexico City so hard that the murky, stagnant waters of the city’s ancient Xochmilco canals were churned up, turning the waterways into rollicking wave pools. Videos posted to social media showed tourists in flat-bottomed tour boats struggling to stay in their seats and hold onto their beers.

Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said that one U.S. Embassy worker suffered a broken elbow in the quake but that no other staffers were hurt.

Mexico City has a large U.S. expatriate community, but Jacobson said she had not received reports of American deaths or injuries. “We’re not hearing of U.S. citizens affected yet,” she said in a phone interview, calling Tuesday’s quake the strongest she had experienced. “I was on the fifth floor of the embassy, and it felt like a long roller coaster ride,” she said.

The embassy building, constructed in 1964, did not appear to sustain structural damage, Jacobson added. She said U.S. officials were in touch with Mexican civil defense authorities and had extended offers of assistance.

In a Twitter message Tuesday after receiving news of the quake, President Trump wrote: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”

President Enrique Peña Nieto was traveling to Oaxaca to inspect the earthquake damage that occurred earlier this month when the latest temblor struck. He turned around and returned to the capital, where he convened a national emergency council.

In the capital’s southern neighborhood of Coyoacan, the walls of colonial-era buildings cracked and sagged in the quake, with some collapsing into rubble. Residents hugged and cried in the streets. At the Barricas Don Tiburcio shop, shelves bearing food crashed down and wine bottles shattered on the floors.

“This is the worst one I have ever felt,” shopkeeper Beatriz Aguilar Bustamante said. “I don’t know if I will have a house when I go home.”

Nick Miroff and Ben Guarino in Washington contributed to this report.

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