When the earthquake struck Mexico City at 1:14pm on Tuesday, about three dozen people were working in a four-story factory in the Obrera neighborhood of the borough of Cuauhtémoc.
There was a resounding crash as the building collapsed, trapping its occupants inside.
But minutes later the corner of Bolívar and Chimalpopoca streets was flooded with volunteer rescue workers who began the arduous task of removing, piece by piece, the ruins of the building in an effort to reach the people trapped under the debris.
It took three days.
They worked round the clock, sometimes under a blistering sun, sometimes in rain, and in the end they saved the lives of 16 people. The bodies of 21 who didn’t survive were also removed from the wreckage.
“I was here yesterday and today I got here at eight in the morning wanting to help, because we’re all human and we have to stick together during catastrophes like this,” said Erik Vergara, one of the hundreds of volunteers that turned up at the factory.
Medical personnel were also among the volunteers, ready to care not only for the victims inside the remains of the building but the rescue workers themselves.
“Rescue workers also need [medical] care, it’s not easy to work in such conditions,” said nurse Verónica Becerril, who was among those giving tetanus shots, treating eyes irritated by the dust and other duties.
Others delivered water, sandwiches and supplies needed by rescue workers.
As the efforts became more organized a mobile kitchen sprang up, where yet more volunteers prepared meals for those working at the scene.
“We have to contribute with what we know how to do. People in some donation collection centers in the area send us what we need and a team of cooks, myself included, prepares the meals. A group of volunteers then serves and distributes them to those working in the disaster zone,” chef César Castro told the newspaper Milenio.
Work at the site of the collapsed factory did not end until the debris was cleared out yesterday. After a few moments of silence, they sang the Mexican anthem before paying their respects to those who lost their lives.
Source: Milenio (sp)