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Echoing 1985 quake, Mexicans pour out aid for hurricane victims

October 11, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Thousands of Mexicans united Saturday to pitch in truckloads of aid for Hurricane Pauline’s victims, one of the biggest outpourings of generosity since an earthquake rocked the capital in 1985.

A 3-year-old here packed clothes for the effort, and a woman there donated two rolls of toilet paper. But one man sent in 36 tons of food as part of the strong response to appeals to help thousands left homeless on the ravaged Pacific coast.

As they did when the Mexico City quake killed thousands, people thronged the Mexican Red Cross headquarters here, snarling traffic as they dropped off needed food, medicine, clothes and supplies.

``We’re going through very sad days in Mexico, but at the same time, it’s illuminating to see what the Mexican people can do,″ said Alexandra Rovzar, vice president of the Red Cross’ Disaster Committee.

By Saturday, the Red Cross said it had sent 200 tons of supplies for Oaxaca and Guerrero states, including Acapulco, struck by flash floods, high waves and high winds during Pauline’s midweek rampage. At least 183 deaths have been reported, more than 150 of them in Acapulco alone.

``We always see Acapulco as so beautiful but in reality it is the poor people who are suffering,″ said Marta Rios, a capital resident, who began crying as she and her husband dropped off bags of shirts and sheets.

Many of the donors recalled the powerful 8.1 quake of Sept. 19, 1985.

Television ran footage of that quake’s damage while soliciting Pauline aid, invoking memories of heroism by civilians who climbed in tottering buildings to save lives, surpassing the government’s sluggish response.

The government was heavily criticized at the time for failing to respond quickly.

President Ernesto Zedillo cut short a state visit to Germany to fly all night to Acapulco to tour the damage, brushing aside criticism his government hasn’t done enough. He ordered in 6,500, and hundreds of military doctors and nurses. Unlike in 1985, few have voiced the same level of criticism of the government’s handling of the latest disaster.

``Sometimes we don’t realize how much help the government gives,″ said Sara Romero Rodriguez, who packed boxed milk leaving on trucks every few hours for the coast.

``I can’t give them anything because I have nothing,″ Romero, 44, said. ``So I come with my hands to help.″

Even toddler Gloria Rendon, 3, helped her godmother pack clothes for shipment.

Valentin Martinez Gama, owner of a food conglomerate called SaborMex, donated three 12-ton truckloads of instant and canned food. Other companies sent badly needed drinking water or boxed foods.

The Red Cross said getting the aid to the coast would be just the start. ``The real work will begin with the reconstruction,″ said the Red Cross’ Rovzar. ``That’s going to take us about three to four months.″

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