On Nov 7, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck near Guatemala's border with Mexico. It was the strongest to hit Guatemala since a 1976 quake that killed 23,000. Damage was reported in all but one of Guatemala's 22 states and shaking felt as far away as Mexico City, 600 miles to the northwest. At least 52 are dead and dozens missing. President Otto Perez Molina said the quake affected as many as 1.2 million people. There were 70 aftershocks in the first 24 hours after the quake, some as strong as magnitude 4.9. Guatemalans huddled in the streets of the mountain town of San Marcos, the most affected area, where at least 40 of the deaths occurred. San Marcos is a poor, mainly indigenous mountain area of subsistence farms, where more than 30 homes were damaged and many of the colorful adobe buildings in its center were either cracked or reduced to rubble, including the police station and the courthouse. A large gash runs down one of the streets. Hundreds of frightened people refused to go back inside after more than five strong aftershocks. Hundreds crammed into the hallways of San Marcos' small hospital, the only building with electricity, seeking help for the injured. Some complained they were not getting care quickly enough, but there is just not enough staff. Perez said more than 2,000 soldiers were deployed to help and a plane made trips to carry relief teams to the area.
The Xavier Interfaith Medical Mission Team has been asked to spend Friday in San Marcos with its medical team, and help with their medical needs. Since they will be there just short of the two-month anniversary, they will not see the major trauma of the first days, but the community is still in ruin. They will bring their medical supplies and expertise to San Marcos, and have also purchased basic sanitary needs (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, etc.), and rice, beans, sugar, and cooking oil for distribution to the families.
“This is a huge request and a privilege for us to be helpful to that community at this time of severe need,” said Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University, and the organizer of the trip. “It will not be easy – a three-hour drive each way to see 50 adult patients and 30 children. Everything we learn during the week will make our time in San Marcos even more productive. Each student participant was selected because they could be counted on to lead – and now they must.”