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As the death toll in Mexico approached 300 following a powerful magnitude-7.1 earthquake that struck the capital Tuesday, two local San Antonio business leaders are accompanying a private plane full of supplies to aid disaster victims.
On Thursday, the City of San Antonio launched a community-wide effort to support earthquake relief actions, and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that $200,000 in medical supplies from the county’s University Hospital System are standing by if they are needed in Mexico.
But even while the city and county stand ready to help, several Mexican nationals and members of the business community also are aiding the relief effort. San Antonio-based international businessmen George Kauss and Hector Navarrete will board a nine-passenger plane Sunday destined for the city of Tuxtla Guttierez in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas.
Local lawyer Bill Scanlan is lending his plane to take around 1,500 pounds worth of nonperishable food items like rice and beans, water, and personal hygiene items to Chiapas, Kauss told the Rivard Report on Friday.
"H-E-B has been a great partner in this," Kauss said. "They have helped donate 99% of the items. All the focus is on [helping] Mexico City, but there are other affected areas."
While most rescue and relief efforts have focused on Mexico City, the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca – two of the most impoverished areas in Mexico – were hit with an 8.1-magnitude earthquake earlier this month. The quake, the most powerful to strike the country in a century, damaged thousands of homes and schools and caused dozens of deaths.
Members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, and other prominent Mexican nationals or individuals with strong connections to Mexico have helped gather supplies for affected areas, said local businessman Roberto Espinosa. Only two people will accompany the shipment because there is a weight limit and the goal is to take as many supplies as possible, he said.
"We are going to need a lot of help long term, especially when people forget about the news and time goes by," Espinosa said. "We need specific things like tents. People can't be in their collapsed homes. Most people have lost their whole pantry and they will need to replace things like pans and blenders. Where we are sending supplies are areas where poverty is so much more extreme."
Kauss said he has been in contact with Chiapas governor Manuel Velasco, who has gladly agreed to accept the aid from San Antonio.
"What we are taking on this trip is not much, but it's a start," Kauss said in Spanish. "This is a fact-finding trip to work and come back with more groups of people. The need is great, and there is a very deep love for Mexico in San Antonio."
The Mexican Consulate in San Antonio, Vantage Bank Texas, and H-E-B stores based in Mexico are also coordinating additional efforts to aid those who have been devastated by the quake. Click here for more information.