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San Antonio, often called Mexico's "northernmost Mexican city," will launch a community-wide effort to provide relief to Mexico City which was shaken by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake Tuesday. More than 220 people have died as a result, according to media reports.
During City Council's meeting Thursday, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg was joined by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mexican Consul General Reyna Torres Mendívil at Council chambers to announce San Antonio's response efforts.
"The tragedy in Mexico City and surrounding areas hits close to home because for so many of our residents Mexico is an extension of home," Nirenberg said, emphasizing the important cultural and political ties that link the United States and Mexico. "We are directing relief efforts to the consulate and the Red Cross in Mexico. We encourage you to please help our neighbors by working with the consulate to coordinate donations."
Wolff said that $200,000 in medical supplies from the county’s University Hospital System are standing by and ready to deploy as soon as logistical issues have been resolved and Mexico asks for aid.
Members of the San Antonio Friendship Council (SAMFCO) also were present Thursday, and City Council members expressed their support. The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has begun to enlist the support of business owners to raise funds for rescue and rebuilding efforts.
"The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico during the aftermath of a devastating earthquake," Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos said. "After speaking with the Mexican authorities, we have learned that there are many logistical challenges with shipping physical donation items to the airport and to the people in need. Therefore, the greatest need right now is monetary donations. "
The Hispanic Chamber has set up an account that locals can donate to through Vantage Bank Texas. Click here for more information.
Several other countries, cities, and – as of Wednesday – the Trump administration have deployed aid.
“The thoughts and prayers of Texans are with the people of Mexico following another devastating earthquake," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Mexico has been challenged by several natural disasters over the last few weeks, and our hearts are heavy for those lost and impacted by these tragedies. The State of Texas will continue to offer any support to aid Mexico in their time of need.”
The earthquake hit around 1 p.m. about 100 miles south of Mexico City. It was the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 quake that killed about 10,000 people and destroyed large parts of the city – a day that most Mexicans remember as one of the greatest tragedies to hit the nation. Schools and offices all over the country had performed evacuation drills just hours before the earthquake hit Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary, unaware that tragedy would strike again that same day.
Old buildings fell flat, clouds of dust engulfed streets, and people rushed down staircases as office buildings wobbled. More than 40 buildings in Mexico City collapsed, including an elementary school full of children. Twenty-one students are presumed dead.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto heard of the tragedy in Mexico City while on a flight to Oaxaca, where more than 90 people were killed earlier this month after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico's southern coast. He then ordered the plane to turn to Mexico City, according to reports.
The Mexican government has declared a state of disaster in Mexico City, while rescuers and ordinary citizens continue to claw through the wreckage in an attempt to save those trapped under poles, concrete, and rubble. President Donald Trump extended his condolences Wednesday during a phone call with Peña Nieto, according to the White House, and deployed search and rescue teams.
Aquí el momento donde un edificio, al parecer en la Colonia Roma colapsa. pic.twitter.com/rAYKX0lJjm
— REFORMACOM (@Reforma) September 19, 2017
Mexico City resident Gabriel Rangel, 27, told the Rivard Report that the amount of panic from residents when the earthquake struck was unlike anything he's ever seen before.
"The building started to shake uncontrollably, windows shattered, and you could hear the building cracking as parts of the wall started to fall while we descended the stairs," Rangel told the Rivard Report over the phone. He was on the fifth floor of his office building in the capital's Colonia Roma district when the earthquake struck. "People were crying and the movement was so strong ... I thought we wouldn't make it down."
Rangel was one of the lucky ones. Cellphone service and electricity are still interrupted in many areas, and rescue efforts continue in the dark.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday that the social media giant will donate $1 million to the Mexican Red Cross.
"We're also partnering with UNICEF to waive fees on all donations to their organization made through our tools that will go to recovery efforts in Mexico," Zuckerberg stated. "Thanks to everyone in our community who's doing their part to help people recover. #FuerzaMéxico."
All aid from abroad will be channeled through donations to the Mexican Red Cross, according to Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Those interested in sending humanitarian aid to the victims, please be informed that there are sufficient supplies in Mexico to handle the emergency," a statement from the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio reads. "At the moment, there is no need for donations in kind. We will inform if this situation changes."
"Right now everyone is focused on the rescue efforts, and I am grateful for San Antonio's generosity," Torres told the Rivard Report. "This rebuilding effort is going to take years, it's not an issue of weeks or days. The reconstruction efforts are going to be long term. It's amazing to see the help that has been offered from abroad – Bexar County and the San Antonio community have been proactive in asking how they can help."
When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, Mexico offered aid and collaboration to deal with the aftermath, "as good neighbors should always do in trying times," the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated at the time. Unfortunately, after a separate hurricane struck the east coast of Mexico and a magnitude 8.1 earthquake hit 60 miles off the coast of the state of Chiapas, it was forced to rescind the offer and focus resources at home.
"The sorrow is immense, but we are united with the people of Mexico, our familia here and across the border, in their suffering," Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said Wednesday. "Just as the residents and government of Mexico pledged their support and assistance to us in our time of need, we do the same in union as one body of Christ, one people of God."
Mexico and the U.S. have been allies for decades and remain major trading partners. In addition to U.S. aid, Panama has announced it will send rescuers and canine units to help Mexico. Israel, which is located more than 7,000 miles away from Mexico, is sending Israeli military units to assist in search, rescue, and recovery efforts.
"More than 600 buildings have been affected in some way and buildings are still collapsing because there's been a lot of damage," said Mary Lety Espinoza, a Mexico City resident who works for finance company UNIFIN in the Polanco neighborhood. "In my own building where I live there are huge cracks on the wall. Phone lines are still [overwhelmed with reports of] damages to buildings."
In the face of calamity, Mexico has been there for the U.S. before. In 2005, during the aftermath of Katrina, Mexican soldiers in trucks and tractor-trailers crossed the border to serve meals, distribute blankets, and conduct medical consultations for thousands of hurricane victims.
In 1985, when the major temblor devastated Mexico, the Reagan administration sent first lady Nancy Reagan to hand deliver a check for $1 million in disaster aid, along with a letter from the president. On the ground, Nancy Reagan told reporters, "I have tremendous admiration for the Mexican people and what they are doing to help themselves. We are good neighbors and always will be."