Jewish emergency volunteers have been rushed to Mexico to help in the aftermath of a large earthquake that struck on Tuesday evening, killing more than 200 people.
Orthodox response group ZAKA mobilised personnel after the quake, which measured 7.1 on the Richter Scale, hit about 75 miles south of Mexico City, the country’s second deadly tremor in two weeks.
Footage posted to social media shows a city devastated, with buildings toppled and several large fires amid the rubble, as emergency services struggled to respond.
70 ZAKA volunteers offered search, rescue and recovery assistance, and within hours of the quake. They said they were “in the field with of emergency ambulance-bikes and providing first aid”.
“Our volunteers are now in the disaster area and are taking part in the search to locate a Jewish resident who, according to reports, was in one of the collapsed buildings,” said ZAKA’s Mati Goldstein. “In addition, the volunteers are helping local rescue forces deal with the bodies of the victims.”
Up to 20 children were confirmed dead and another 30 are missing, after the quake brought down a school. At first count, buildings in 44 locations had collapsed or were badly damaged, including a six-floor block of flats, a supermarket and a factory.
ZAKA Mexico volunteer Benjamin Shechnazi: “Engineers have been dispatched to local synagogues to ensure that Rosh Hashanah services can safely take place.”
ZAKA Mexico commander Marcus Cain: “It is impossible to describe the scope of the disaster. Millions of people are without power, there is great confusion and distress.
He added: “We are currently searching for a missing Jewish resident and helping the local rescue forces evacuate the bodies and locate and rescue survivors in the disaster area.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it did not know of any Israelis injured in the quake, as a message on the Embassy’s Facebook page asked Israelis in Mexico needing help to contact an emergency operations room.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only made his first official visit to Mexico last week, when he met Mexican President Pena Nieto and offered reconstruction aid following an earthquake that killed 91 people in southern Mexico earlier this month.
On hearing the news that a second quake had hit, Netanyahu ordered an Israeli aid and rescue mission to be sent, officials liaising with Mexican peers to work out what was needed.