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Army Of Volunteers Helps In Mexico Search And Rescue

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Mexico is still trying to dig out after Tuesday's big earthquake. While the death toll continues to rise, authorities say they have rescued at least 60 people, including one man who survived more than 36 hours under the rubble. The search for survivors is being aided by this army of volunteers eager to do their part to help. NPR's Carrie Kahn has been out watching them at work.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Wherever there are rescue teams digging through the rubble of a collapsed building - and there are more than 35 sites throughout Mexico City - you'll find hundreds of volunteers.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: At this corner in front of a collapsed six-story office building in the hard-hit Roma neighborhood, people are shouting out into the crowd for supplies. Others handout donated water, medicines and clothes. A group of women prepare food for the Marines, police and rescue workers searching for survivors in the rubble. Most volunteers have no professional rescue experience, just the need to comfort and assist.

HECTOR RODRIGUEZ: My name is Hector Rodriguez.

KAHN: The 46-year-old computer analyst brought nine of his friends with him.

RODRIGUEZ: And I ask that they come here. We want to help Mexico.

KAHN: The group has been friends since they were kids playing football - American football. Their favorite team?

RODRIGUEZ: Dallas Cowboys.

KAHN: Javier Bonilla Arenas is a lawyer.

JAVIER BONILLA ARENAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "No one is 100 percent prepared for a situation like this" he says.

BONILLA ARENAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "But what's important is that people have come together and haven't left those who are suffering alone," he adds.

The friends have been making sure distribution centers in other parts of the city are getting enough donations.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Just down the street under a heavy rain, a police officer directs traffic. Closer to the collapsed building, volunteers with professional rescue experience congregate, like Pola Diaz. Just 4 feet, 8 inches, Diaz is one of hundreds of experienced rescuers in Mexico known as topos or moles. She's a paramedic by day. But during emergencies, she crawls into the rubble and searches for survivors.

POLA DIAZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We Mexicans are known for our courage. Our big hearts and above all our solidarity."

Diaz rushed down to this collapsed building immediately after the quake on Tuesday. She hasn't left since and says she won't until every survivor is found.

DIAZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She says, "hope is the last thing to die." These days, Mexico's community spirit is just as strong. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.