One of the biggest communities in Latin America — the Los Angeles region — reached out Wednesday to help victims of the 7.1 earthquake that hit Mexico City Tuesday and killed more than 200 people.
For many in Southern California, where as many as one in three residents in some communities have a direct or indirect connection to Mexico, the quake — technically about 2,000 miles away — felt close to home.
“My niece was in a building when the earthquake happened, but she was able to get out just in time,” said Frank Garcia, owner of the La Casa Garcia Mexican Restaurant in Anaheim.
“The minute she stepped out of the building, it fell down.”
Garcia, founder of the nonprofit We Give Thanks, which annually serves Orange County’s largest public Thanksgiving meal, has spent recent days in Houston, serving hot meals to victims of Hurricane Harvey. He’ll start raising money for quake victims when he gets back into Orange County, probably Thursday.
Garcia, like many in Southern California, said he spent Tuesday night and part of Wednesday trying to contact family members near Mexico City. Though he said his family is “doing OK,” he added that “the situation there is really bad, people are still looking for family members and friends who are missing.”
Such anxiety was common Wednesday throughout Southern California.
Images of flattened buildings and injured quake victims, and video of swaying buildings, spread all day via television and social media. Facebook and Twitter were crowded with pleas from families searching for missing loved ones and pleas for help from people in the quake zone.
Flights from Los Angeles to Mexico generally were operating smoothly Wednesday, but that came after long delays on Tuesday, said Charles Pannunzio, spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports. Those delays, he said, occurred because airports in Mexico City had to shut down to evaluate damages.
In coming days, flights from Los Angeles to Mexico could be at least partly filled with people from Southern California trying to help quake victims.
A Los Angeles County emergency response team is also ready to be deployed to Mexico, but is waiting for direction from the federal agency, USAID, and Mexican officials, a spokeswoman said.
Known internationally as USA-2, the department’s elite rescue team includes firefighters, paramedics, rescue specialists, search dogs, emergency room physicians and structural engineers. Another team from Los Angeles also was…