Communities in Mexico have gathered in a show of solidarity to remove rubble, rescue people and attend the wounded after an earthquake struck the country on Tuesday. The initiative, according to a leader of the brigades, presents an alternative to the government's slow response.
Jose Martinez Cruz is currently leading relief efforts in Cuernavaca, Morelos, where there are at least 69 people dead. During a small break from working, Martinez spoke to teleSUR about how citizens are taking matters into their own hands and helping their neighbors affected by the natural disaster.
“There is criticism towards the government for the way it has handled aid for the population and the lack of an integrated response from the Mexican state," Martinez said.
“That distrust towards authorities somehow motivated a lot of people’s reactions.”
Citizens have joined brigades all across the capital and in the main areas affected to remove rubble with their bare hands, rescue victims and attend their needs. Brigade members are providing water, food and shelter.
“The devastation is really large, information reaches us slowly and the number of dead people is now more than 240, according to the lastest report. It could be a lot higher," Martinez said.
The brigades include people of diverse ages and workers who organized themselves inside their neighborhoods.
People pass donations in a donation center in Parque Espana in Mexico City. Photo: Reuters
“First reactions are spontaneous," Martinez said. "When the buildings collapsed, the first ones to be there were the people who work in the area; the same people who clean the streets.”
As information about the brigades started spreading, they began receiving help from people who had relevant experience, such as doctors, psychologists, engineers and architects.
During a similar 1985 earthquake that shook the country, Martinez also began organizing brigades as he and many others realized that the government wasn't sufficiently channeling help, he said.
“People reacted without knowing any safety measures, and even so, solidarity was the key to rescuing thousands of people who were trapped under the rubble."
Rescue work during the following hours and days will be focused on reaching all places where there could be people caught under rubble. He says volunteers and international aid should be focused on smaller sectors where there is often worse damage than in Mexico City.
“The fundamental thing is to rescue lives, anywhere where there’s an opportunity to remove someone is where people will focus their attention. That is the priority,” Martinez said.
The following step, according to Martinez, will be to provide clothes, blankets, find public spaces to house the victims and to rebuild houses and hospitals that collapsed during the quake
“Once the time has passed in which we could rescue the most people, the next step is to guarantee food and water, and that people have a place to stay because their houses were destroyed."