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Chicago Activists Plan Relief Efforts For Mexico After Major Earthquake

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Rescuers continued their search for survivors in Mexico, in the aftermath of a major earthquake, as the death toll has risen to at least 217.

Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 quake was Mexico's deadliest in 32 years, and also hit on the anniversary of a 1985 tremblor that killed thousands.

Chicago activists were trying to organize relief efforts to help Mexico after this latest natural disaster.

"Hopefully, we can work with the consulate, where we can probably ask President Trump for some aid; maybe to put a moratorium on the deportations right now as well, because we have a crisis in Mexico," Esteban Burgoa said.

Burgoa said Chicagoans came together for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Now he believes they need to come together for Mexico during its time of need.

"We had a crisis in the United States, and now we have a crisis in Mexico," he said.

Rescuers worked through the night and against the clock in Mexico City, searching for survivors after a powerful earthquake struck yesterday afternoon.

Crews used buckets and wheelbarrows to dig through the debris at an elementary school, where at least 22 children were killed when the building collapsed. Dozens of other kids were still missing Wednesday morning.

Family members rushed to the scene after the quake, looking for loved ones. Searchers wrote "silencio" on the school building with spray paint so they could listen for survivors while digging through the rubble.

"The only thing that they have told is to go to the hospitals to verify if our family is there," said Jonathan Mendoza, who was looking for his cousin on Tuesday. "But my family have gone there, and we don't have news on our family member."

Elizabeth Franco said her mother couldn't stop crying Tuesday, after the quake struck while she was on a subway in Mexico City.

"All the people was running, crying," Franco said.

While Franco spoke to her mom on the phone from Chicago right after the earth rumbled in Mexico, she wasn't able to immediately reach her father and brother.

"We don't know about my brother and my father for around three hours," she said.

Franco still hasn't been able to reach other relatives to confirm their safety.

"Even right now we don't know about my aunts and uncles," she said.

Guadalupe Vavalle has friends in the area. Tuesday's quake brought back memories of the 1985 quake that killed an estimated 10,000 people. She said it really makes her think about the fragility of life.

"In one split second everything comes through your mind, like what if it was me, what if my family was there? So it's really sad," she said.

The magnitude 7.1 quake was centered 76 miles southeast of Mexico City.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa said, in the capital alone, at least 44 buildings came crashing to the ground.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declared a state of emergency, and said rescue efforts are the priority. He addressed the country late Tuesday night, saying "This earthquake is a hard test and a painful one for our country."

Many schools and businesses in Mexico were rehearsing earthquake drills earlier in the day. It was part of a yearly remembrance of the 1985 quake.

The latest quake comes a little more than a week after an 8.1 struck off the Mexican coast. That earthquake killed more than 90 people.

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