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Inside the rescue efforts following Mexico’s massive earthquake

By Divya Amladi
Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Oxfam's executive director in Mexico, says that Mexican society has joined together in the rescue effort. Photo: Montserrat Ramos Beltrán

Oxfam is working with local partners to determine needs and map out our response.

On Tuesday, September 19, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico – the second to hit the country within a span of two weeks. According to media and Oxfam staff reports, more than 200 people are dead, with more than 800 injured in Mexico City alone. Many remain trapped under the rubble.

Our office in Mexico was damaged, but all staff are safe. Oxfam and our local partners are assessing the situation in Morelos and Puebla, two areas hit hard by Tuesday’s quake. “Right now we are evaluating how best to help,” says Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, our executive director in Mexico.

As we continue to gather information on the extent of the damage, the photos below will give you a sense of what it has been like in Mexico City in the moments after the earthquake, and in the ensuing rescue effort.

Photo: Anne Beentjes/Oxfam

Fuentes-Nieva compares experiencing the earthquake to the feeling of being on a boat on the high seas. “You could see these buildings moving like punch-drunk fighters crashing into each,” he says. 

Photo: Karl Byrnison/Oxfam

Fuentes-Nieva says that Mexican society has joined together in the rescue effort.

“What started happening was this self-organization of Mexican society trying to get the food for rescue workers, trying to get the tools for these rescue workers, and trying to get any survivors under the rubble out in time,” says Fuentes-Nieva. “I went to bed around 4:30 a.m., and there were still people working, trying to find survivors. And as the new day [broke] there [were] different rounds of volunteers replacing the people who had been working all night long.”

Photo: Karl Byrnison/Oxfam

In this photo taken the day after the earthquake hit, neighbors post a list of names to identify those lost and saved. Rescue crews continue to search for survivors. 

Photo: Francisco Sandoval/Animal Politico

Zacatepeca, a town in Morelos, is about 75 miles from Mexico City and very close to the epicenter of the earthquake.

Photo: Karl Byrnison/Oxfam

As of September 20, the Federal Electricity Commission had restored power to nearly everyone affected in Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Tlaxacala, and most of the affected users in Mexico City, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos. 


Oxfam and our partners are assessing the damage and identifying the most urgent needs of affected people. We are coordinating with the government and other aid organizations, and developing a response plan.

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