Mexico relief operation underway

Written by Mason Booth, Staff Writer,
Jan. 24, 2003 -- An extensive relief operation is underway in west and central Mexico following Tuesday's (Jan. 21) powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake, which killed at least 27 people and damaged more than 10,000 homes.

One of the first responders to the disaster was the Mexican Red Cross, a strong element in the country's relief network.

With a local force of 140 volunteers, 2 search dogs, 16 ambulances, 4 urban rescue units and 2 specialty units, the Mexican Red Cross immediately coordinated its relief effort with local authorities to provide triage, medical and nursing services, and psycho-social services, including mental health counseling for traumatized residents.

Meanwhile, the organization's "Collapsed Buildings Search and Rescue" Brigade dispatched 50 teams Tuesday evening from Mexico City and the Jalisco State branch to assist with search and rescue, damage assessment and logistic needs evaluation.

After surveying the affected region, the teams determined the agricultural state of Colima was hit hardest by the earthquake, which struck just off the region's Pacific coast.

According to Colima Gov. Fernando Moreno, 25 people were killed and 140 others were injured. Damages to residences were widespread, with at least 800 destroyed and another 10,000 damaged in five of the state's municipalities (Villa de Alvarez, Coquimatlan, Armeria, Tecoman and Colima), prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday.

Although Colima sustained the most extensive damages, its neighboring states of Jalisco and Michoacan did not escape unscathed. Two Jalisco residents were killed during the quake, including a one-year-old child, and 160 people in the two states were injured.

President Vicente Fox toured the worst-hit areas in Colima on Wednesday, both by helicopter and on foot and promised rapid aid for victims including loans for people with damaged businesses and quick restoration of power and water services.

Shortly thereafter, federal authorities announced the establishment of a $2 million reconstruction fund to help the hardest-hit areas rebuild.

As the operations of both the Mexican Government and the Mexican Red Cross gain momentum, offers of assistance have poured in from around the globe. On Wednesday, Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the American Red Cross, contacted Jose Antonio Fernandez, Director General of the Mexican Red Cross (MRC) and pledged American Red Cross support and assistance as appropriate to its neighboring Red Cross society.

Support has also been offered from the Canadian Red Cross, the German Red Cross, the Italian Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross.

However, at this time, there has been no request for international assistance from either the Mexican Red Cross or the Mexican Government.

"Each year the Mexican Red Cross responds to more than 70 relief operations, such as the October responses following Hurricanes Isidore and Kenna," said Lesley Schaffer, international disaster operations manager for the American Red Cross. "They are a very effective relief organization, well prepared to respond to this earthquake in terms of supplies, volunteers and medical provisions, and are meeting the needs of those affected."


American Red Cross
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.