The staff at a downtown Edmonton restaurant has found itself grappling with not one, but two, natural disasters.
Daniel Braun, co-owner of Rostizado, is half Mexican and lived in Mexico for approximately 25 years.
When a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck near Mexico City on Tuesday, Braun’s thoughts immediately turned to family members who live there.
“It hits close to home, definitely. It’s very scary,” he said.
Fortunately, his family is safe, albeit shaken from the ordeal.
“Being so far away, it’s definitely surreal to a certain point. I think one sees so many stories about disasters that it almost seems like it’s not happening, but it’s real,” he said.
The death toll is nearing 300 in Mexico City and several nearby states. Rescuers are still searching for survivors.
“It’s great to see how a country that’s normally, usually can be divided by cultural or economical differences, is coming together for a common good,” Braun said.
Also working in the restaurant is Mayelin Henry, who is originally from the Dominican Republic. That country was battered with Hurricane Maria on Thursday, suffering through strong winds and heavy rains.
Henry has lived in Edmonton for the last 20 years and has worked with Braun’s company for six years. She said watching the hurricane rip through her home has been emotional.
It was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h about 110 kilometres north of Punta Cana, on the east coast of the Dominican Republic at 5 a.m. EDT, the NHC said on Thursday.
Punta Cana, a popular tourist area, was hit with wind gusts of 93 km/h and Maria was forecast to bring storm surges — when hurricanes push ocean water dangerously over normal levels — of up to 1.83 metres in the Dominican Republic, it said.
Henry has been in touch with family back home.
“They are OK, thank God,” she said.
“They are fine. The water – there is a lot. But they are alive. That’s the most important thing, right?”
Henry said it has been difficult to watch the hurricane from afar.
“You worry because you know what they are going through. You’re here. You really can’t do anything for them,” she said.
Henry plans to visit the Dominican Republic later this year. She said the past few weeks have been difficult for her family.
“They had first Hurricane Irma. We were so worried about that one first. It didn’t go that bad, like they expected. The new one was so far – this was a surprise because nobody talked about it as much as Irma,” she said.
Braun said Rostizado will be doing its part and giving back to those in Mexico who have been impacted by the earthquake.
The restaurant will be donating 10 per cent of its lunch sales for the rest of September, and potentially part of October, to organizations and people in need.
The Three Amigos will also be collecting donations for earthquake survivors at its two restaurants in Edmonton. The donations will be driven down to Calgary and flown to Mexico next week.
Isabel Mezo, who works at the Three Amigos, moved to Edmonton from Mexico one year ago. She has relatives in Mexico City, who are luckily unharmed.
“I was really concerned, mostly for my relatives, and also because I have friends that have family, direct family living there,” she said.
“It makes me feel a little bit anxious actually because I feel a little bit guilty that I’m here and not there helping them.”
Poppy Barley manufactures its products, including handbags and boots, in the city of Leon, which is 385 kilometres northwest of Mexico City.
Co-owner Kendall Barber said when she heard about the earthquake, her thoughts immediately went to the workers the company employs.
“I sent them messages. I said, ‘Are you all OK?’” she said.
Their manufacturing has not been impacted but there is a strong connection between Poppy Barley and Mexico, with Barber saying Mexico was the first place to believe in their company.
Poppy Barley has donated $2,500 to the Red Cross in Mexico.
-with files from Associated Press