Young people are at the heart of Mexico earthquake recovery

Oscar Rangel doesn't own a shovel and typically he is sitting at a computer compiling databases at work. But when the magnitude 7.1 quake struck central Mexico this week, he was among the first to show up at a building that collapsed near his home, ready to dig for survivors.

In the two days since the devastating quake he and a brigade of other young Mexicans have searched through the rubble with newly acquired construction equipment at four destroyed buildings in or near Mexico City.

"More than anything, it's wanting to help, to do whatever we can, as Mexicans," said Rangel, 20.

They're not alone. Mexicans are looking to help in such numbers that some donation centers and shelters for victims are turning away volunteers. And more often than not, it is young people who are sorting through piles of food donations, donning construction hats, making sandwiches and playing music to rally the spirits of earthquake victims.

Most have no memory of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and remains a traumatic memory in the minds of older Mexicans, making Tuesday's quake a defining moment for a younger generation.

"There are many people helping, but as youth we are realizing that right now all our energy is needed," said Daniel Flores, 31, the director of a refuge center near a number of collapsed buildings.