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Sunday, September 24

Uh oh. Mexican tells Reuters no quake relief aid from government, only civilians

Julia Juarez, 56, sat in a park where the homeless set up tents. "All the help we have received is from the civilian population. The government has not sent anything at all," she said. "No food, no clothes, no water, not even an Alka-Seltzer," she said, referring to the pain relieving medication.

Unfortunately I am predisposed to believe Juarez. But before the Reuters report, what may be hopeful news about the search and rescue effort -- although as with all such news, it's hard to gauge what is actually happening. From the Associated Press 'live blogging' updates yesterday (emphasis mine):
3:00 AM [Sept. 23]:
[...]
As earthquake rescue operations stretched into Day 5, Mexico City residents throughout the city held out hope that dozens still missing might be found alive.
More than half the dead —157 — perished in the capital, while another 73 died in the state of Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico State, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

Along a 60-foot stretch of a bike lane in Mexico City's downtown, families [displaced by the earthquake] huddled under tarps and donated blankets Friday, awaiting word of loved ones trapped in the four-story-high pile of rubble behind them.

"There are moments when you feel like you're breaking down," said Patricia Fernandez Romero, who was waiting for word on the fate of her 27-year-old son. "And there are moments when you're a little calmer. ... They are all moments that you wouldn't wish on anyone."

Along the bike lane, where families slept in tents, accepting food and coffee from strangers, people have organized to present a united front to authorities, who they pressed ceaselessly for information.

They were told that water and food had been passed along to at least some of those trapped inside. Fernandez said officials told them they knew where people were trapped on the fourth floor.
[...]
So there is still hope that more can be rescued from the collapsed buildings. However, the report from Reuters, published at 7:23 AM Sept. 23, seems pessimistic:

In Mexico, frantic rescuers keep up search for quake survivors
By Julia Love and Alexandra Alper

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - An army of trained rescuers and scores of volunteers carefully combed through the rubble of Mexico's most deadly earthquake in decades on Saturday, hoping against diminishing odds to pull more survivors out nearly four days after the disaster struck.

While rescue efforts at the sites of some collapsed buildings had been called off, at others sweat-drenched workers kept up a frenzied pace.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake destroyed 52 buildings in the sprawling Mexican capital early afternoon on Tuesday, leaving thousands homeless and close to 300 people dead nationwide.

Apartment buildings, offices, a school and a textile factory were among the structures flattened.

Maria Isela Sandoval waited anxiously outside a collapsed office building in the trendy Roma neighborhood for news of her missing nephew and possibly other co-workers trapped somewhere under the ruins.

She said her nephew worked on the fourth floor of the building, and that officials have told her they believe survivors could be trapped in a capsule within the twisted steel and chunks of concrete.
[Pundita note: this sounds like the building mentioned in the AP update, above]

"We pray to God they are alive, that they can hold on," the 38-year-old housewife said, her eyes red with exhaustion as she has not slept in days.

U.S. rescue workers went to work Friday in the collapsed office building, looking for six people who were still missing.

Mexican soldiers and volunteers, supported by teams from as far away as Israel and Japan, have so far rescued at least 60 people from the ruins in Mexico City and surrounding towns.[1]

After several days of searching, rescuers were finding more corpses than survivors, and frustration was mounting especially as the government's efforts were largely panned.

Across the mega city of more than 20 million people, many whose homes had become uninhabitable sought a place to call home, raising the specter of a housing shortage.

Officials said there could be some 20,000 badly damaged homes in the adjacent states of Morelos and Puebla.

Julia Juarez, 56, sat in a park where the homeless set up tents. "All the help we have received is from the civilian population. The government has not sent anything at all," she said. "No food, no clothes, no water, not even an Alka-Seltzer," she said, referring to the pain relieving medication.

Tuesday's massive quake hit on the anniversary of the deadly 1985 tremor that by some estimates killed as many as 10,000 people and destroying scores of older buildings in the Mexican capital.

Despite the shrinking odds that more survivors would be pulled out from huge piles of debris, workers at many sites continued to dig on the faintest chance at success.

At the same collapsed Roma office building, volunteer coordinator Angel Ortiz, a 36-year-old taxi driver, pointed to the results of heat-sensing detectors that appeared to show signs of life somewhere underneath the rubble.

"There are still people alive down there," he said.

Like many traumatized but determined rescue workers, Ortiz described the past few days as an emotional roller-coaster, feeling encouraged one moment but depressed the next.

"For me, it's really satisfying to be here even though it's hard to explain," he said. "There's so much emotion and anxiety."

(Reporting by Julia Love and Alexandra Alper; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

[END REUTERS REPORT]

1) Los Angeles County Fire's search and rescue team deploys to quake-ravaged Mexico; September 21, ABC7 News Los Angeles

U.S. Air Force Delivers Search-and-Rescue Teams to Mexico After Quake; September 21, Military.com
The U.S. Air Force sent a C-17 Globemaster III filled with search-and-rescue teams, disaster relief personnel, and thousands of pounds of supplies and equipment to Mexico City on Wednesday night as the city grapples with its latest earthquake aftermath.
The airlift cargo plane from Travis Air Force Base, California, carried the United States Agency for International Development's elite disaster team, including 60 members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team, five search dogs and 62,000 pounds of equipment and medical supplies, Air Mobility Command officials said in a release Thursday. ...
US search and rescue experts arrive in Mexico after deadly earthquake; September 22, ABC News

Israeli rescue team applauded in the streets of Mexico; September 23, The Times of Israel 

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