Mexico offered rescuers, little long-term aid after quake
By PETER PRENGAMAN
Sep. 21, 2017
Governments and civilians around the world expressed condolences and promises of aid on Wednesday to help Mexico cope with a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that levelled buildings and killed more than 200 people.
The outpouring of early support was heavier on Twitter pledges of solidarity and plans to send rescuers than offers of longer term aid. Many countries have been distracted or overwhelmed by a flurry of natural disasters that have hit Mexico, the Caribbean and the southern United States, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
"God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you," tweeted U.S. President Donald Trump.
"Devastating news from Mexico City," tweeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding "Canada will be ready to help our friends."
"Peru is ready to lend whatever help is required," tweeted Peruvian President Pedro Kuczynski.
Several governments said they were sending rescue teams to help find survivors.
Israel's military said a team would arrive Thursday with engineers and search and rescue professionals, as well as support staff for medical care and logistics.
El Salvador's president, Sanchez Ceren, said his country had sent members of the civil police and firefighters to help rescue people from collapsed structures.
Ecuador announced it was sending 30 firefighters with dogs trained to find people after earthquakes. Panama said it was sending a group of 35 rescuers.
USAID said it was sending a disaster assistance mission to help assess damage and coordinate with Mexican authorities and aid groups on getting critical aid where needed. It said the mission would also include an urban search-and-rescue team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
From Chile, one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, came 18 members of Topos Chile, a group specializing in response to natural disasters that is inspired by volunteer rescue workers who emerged after a 1985 earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico.
Francisco Lermanda, head of operations for the Chilean group, told Canal 13 television there that people trapped in rubble can be found days after a disaster, long after hopes for survival have faded.
"If we haven't found you, you are not dead," he said, describing the group's guiding principal.
Before the new earthquake struck Tuesday about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City, the country was still counting the damage from a magnitude 8.1 magnitude quake on Sept. 7 that walloped the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Ricardo Fuentes, executive director for Oxfam in Mexico, said the humanitarian relief group was working with the government to make sure the response was more coordinated than after the earlier quake, which destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and left at least 90 dead. Many in southern Mexico are still homeless.
"Right now we are evaluating how best to help" Fuentes said. "It might be auditing the federal government's response, or helping with specifics, like water sanitation."
Aid groups say that all the recent disasters could make fundraising for any specific disaster more difficult. Mexico itself had to rescind its offer to help storm-flooded Houston when the Sept. 7 earthquake struck at the same time Hurricane Katia hit the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.
Shannon Scribner, acting humanitarian director for policy and programs for Oxfam America, said rescuers from other countries are only a help if the local government closely coordinates their activities. She said after both the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many aspiring rescuers just showed up.
"It made the response quite difficult," Scribner said. "People had good intentions but didn't know international standards or have the technical know-how."
Associated Press journalists Eva Vergara in Santiago, Chile; Joseph Krauss in Cairo; Juan Zamorano in Panama City; Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador; Cesar Garcia in Bogota, Colombia; Paula Flores in La Paz, Bolivia; Franklin Biceno in Lima, Peru; David Barraza in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.
Peter Prengaman: twitter.com/peterprengaman