Israeli soldiers return home after grueling Mexico quake recovery mission
IDF Spokesman's Unit
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) delegation returned home on Thursday after concluding a search and rescue mission in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that shook central Mexico earlier this month.
The 70-odd-strong team included soldiers, medical staff, search and rescue specialists and around 20 engineers whose primary task was to assess the structural safety of buildings and look for signs of life in the rubble of collapsed buildings.
More than 300 people were killed when the quake struck on September 19 -- just two hours after an annual earthquake drill -- turning Mexico City's most seismically unstable neighborhoods into something out of a post-apocalyptic movie.
Dozens of buildings in the capital crumbled into dust. While in period immediately after the quake around 69 people were pulled alive from the debris, the rescue mission quickly turned into recovery.
The Mexican ambassador to Tel Aviv Pablo Macedo expressed his gratitude for the contribution in emotional terms.
"On behalf of the people of Mexico, I thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said at a ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport that was also attended by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The IDF team was not successful in finding any survivors despite arriving relatively quickly after the disaster.
"We were embraced warmly by the Mexican public," recalled delegation head Colonel Dudi Mizrahi at the ceremony. "Sometimes it was embarrassing. We would come down from the rubble and we would get applause. Lines of thousands of people who stood and applauded. We tried to do our work modestly, and it was hard"
The deputy chief of the Israeli army, Major General Aviv Kochavi thanked the delegation for their efforts.
"Thank you very much for what you've done, I speak on behalf of the entire general staff, on behalf of the chief of staff and myself, this is greatly appreciated. Whoever saves one life saves the world entire, not just in Israel," he said, quoting a biblical verse.
(AFP contributed to this report)
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