A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in the country. At the site of an office building that collapsed in Mexico City Tuesday, rescuers briefly evacuated before returning to continue their work. (Sept. 23)
Volunteers in Mexico City have organized over social media to direct relief efforts to where they’re most needed after the most deadly series of earthquakes in three decades.
Two deaths resulting from a strong aftershock Sunday brought the death toll to 318 since a magnitude-8.1 quake that battered the Oaxaca region Sept. 7. Sunday’s tremor sowed fear across the country, and a column of ash rose above the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City.
Another strong earthquake registering magnitude 7.1 leveled buildings across the Mexican capital Tuesday.
Gisela Pérez de Acha, a human rights lawyer and journalist, described the volunteer effort from the Centro Horizontal, a cultural center where she works, and where she has been helping to coordinate relief efforts with 50 other volunteers since Tuesday.
Previously: Mexico City quake rescuers frantically search for those still alive under school rubble
“We’re covering a governmental void and we’re getting resources where they are needed,” Pérez de Acha told USA TODAY by telephone.
The Mexican government has asked to integrate her group’s real-time maps with their own and is now using them to direct their own efforts, she said.
The latest tremor, registering 6.1, struck on Sunday off the west coast, with its epicenter 62 miles south-southwest of Tonala, in Chiapas, according to Reuters.
The government of Oaxaca state reported that several homes collapsed. A woman was crushed to death when a wall in her home buckled in the town of Asuncion Ixtaltepec, and a man died after a wall fell on him in San Blas Atempa, the Associated Press reported.
Many more quakes are likely, warned Xyoli Perez Campos, director of Mexico’s National Seismological Service, who said more than 4,300 aftershocks have already been counted.
At least 30 people are still believed to be buried in rubble, Mexico City Mayor Angel Mancera said.
“Homes that were still standing just fell down,” Bettina Cruz, a resident of Juchitan in Oaxaca, told the AP by phone, her voice still shaking. “It’s hard. We are all in the streets.”
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Saturday tweeted while reviewing the damage in Oaxaca state: “At the moment the greatest damage has been to the Ixtaltepec bridge, which should be rebuilt, and structures with previous damage that collapsed.”
He said government workers were fanning out in Juchitan to provide help to anyone who needs it. He later tweeted that he was evaluating the damage from the Sept. 7 temblor in the town of Jiquipilas in the state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala.
Pérez de Acha, the volunteer coordinator in Mexico City, said she and others are “trying to help wherever we can in a city where, at least in my neighborhood, there are fallen buildings every four or five blocks.”
People are suffering from a sense of loss, worry and disorientation to the point of dizziness, she said. “If an ambulance goes through the street we all relate it to the sound of the alarm, and people jump and are startled.”
She and others sprang into action the day after Tuesday’s quake, when it became clear that rumor and misinformation were causing people to rush to locations to provide help or supplies where none was needed.
Using a Google forum, they created a database of requests and a database of people with supplies and services they can provide, which they verified and then matched.
A tweet from the center on Sunday showed “a house full of volunteers” working to connect requests with supplies on a real-time, verified map.
The goal is “to connect one with the other so citizens who want to help know where to go, and to direct them to where the help is most needed,” Pérez de Acha said. “Now the government is using our maps to mobilize their own resources.”
While her neighborhood was hard hit, it is also among the most affluent in the capital, she said.
“We have a lot of resources here,” she said. “There are a lot of rural places very affected by the earthquake outside of Mexico city.”
Her group is working with someone who has 100 trucks that can be mobilized immediately, she said. And the needs are many: food, construction tools, shovels, camping tents for people without homes.
“Every single thing that has to do with a disaster to help people left without homes to help volunteers, from personal hygiene products to bottled water,” she said.
Follow Oren Dorell on Twitter: @OrenDorell
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