September 20, 2017 6:17 pm

Mexico offered support, rescuers but not long term help after devastating quake

Mexican authorities and volunteers gave out food and water at collection centres in Mexico City Wednesday after a 7..1-magnitude earthquake hit the city and central Mexico on Tuesday.

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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.

READ MORE: Mexico earthquake kills at least 223, girl found alive in school rubble

“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 have said they are 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.

WATCH: Ongoing coverage of the earthquake near Mexico City  

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.

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.

READ MORE: No reports of Canadian casualties in Mexico following massive earthquake

Before the new earthquake struck Tuesday about 76 miles (123 kilometres) 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 co-ordinated 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 co-ordinates 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.”

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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