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Rehabilitation Swiss engineers to assist Mexico’s post-quake efforts

en los escombros

Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake at the Ninos Heroes neighborhood in Mexico City on Tuesday September 19.

(Keystone)

Switzerland is sending a team of civil engineers to Mexico to help rescuers cope with the aftermath of Tuesday’s huge earthquake. 

Mexican rescuers have been racing to reach possible survivors buried in wrecked buildings and rubble in central Mexico following the country’s most deadly earthquake in three decades. At least 237 people have been killed and 2,000 injured by the 7.1-magnitude quake that struck about 150km (90 miles) southeast of Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon, 32 years after a quake killed thousands.     

“The Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unitexternal link immediately established an emergency cell following the latest earthquake in Mexico. It has offered to send an emergency team comprising civil engineers and logistics experts,” Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, spokesperson for the Swiss foreign ministry, told swissinfo.ch. 

He said Swiss specialists would advise and support immediate rescue operations and later help during the first phase of rehabilitation. 

The Mexican authorities initially declined the Swiss offer, saying it was “not necessary”, according to the Swiss embassy in Mexico. But it later changed its mind. 

“Mexico accepted the group of engineers from Switzerland who will support efforts to detect damage to buildings. The details are currently being finalised,” the Swiss embassy said on social media on Wednesday. 

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Living in fear 

Across the capital, thousands of Mexicans are now believed to be homeless after the tremor levelled around 40 buildings and left others teetering. Men, women and children are now filling gyms and event halls at more than two dozen designated shelters. But damage is thought to be worse closer to the quake epicentre. 

Switzerland also offered Mexico the support of Swiss Rescue, which is specialised in locating and rescuing victims from rubble left by earthquakes abroad and for providing initial emergency medical care. But the Mexican authorities are currently not seeking help from international rescue teams, with the exception of neighbouring countries.

Other Swiss-based organisations are assisting rescue efforts, however. The non-governmental organisation International Medical Switzerlandexternal link, which helps the work of health teams in affected areas, has set up an account for donations from Switzerland. Around 3,000 Mexicans live in Switzerland. 

The new quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor on September 7 off Mexico’s southern coast which was felt strongly in the capital. 

The Association of Mexicans and Friends of Mexico in Vaud and Neuchâtel, meanwhile, says it plans to send food and tarpaulins to victims in the Oaxaca and Chiapas areas in the south.

“Food and medicine and shelter material are urgently needed, since people affected are living outside as they have lost their homes and are fearful of the roughly 1,070 aftershocks since September 7,” Tere Naescher, a member of the association, told swissinfo.ch. 

The account for donations to Association of Mexicans and Friends of Mexico in Vaud and Neuchâtel: 20-1072-5 IBAN: CH23 0900 0000 2000 1072 5, mention: Sismo Oaxaca / Chiapas 07-09-2017. 

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Translated from Spanish by Simon Bradley

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