People in the National Capital Region with ties to Mexico are scrambling to do their part for the relief effort following Tuesday's devastating earthquake there.

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake has claimed the lives of at least 225 people and caused the collapse of dozens of buildings in Mexico City and other parts of the country.

"Our community is worried," said Hugo Crespo, president of the Mexican-Canadian Cultural Association of Ottawa-Gatineau.

"We're trying to find ways to do a good fundraiser and bring people together so we can make something of all this for our friends and family in Mexico."

'It's panic'

Like many Mexican-Canadians, Crespo spent much of Tuesday desperately trying to reach friends and family in Mexico City.

"It's panic. My relatives live in a highrise so my first idea is, what's happening there? So I called everybody and thank God everyone was OK, but a lot of people weren't that fortunate," said Crespo.

Hugo Crespo

Hugo Crespo is president of the Mexican-Canadian Cultural Association of Ottawa-Gatineau. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Josue Niteo, a resident of Gatineau and president of Ballet Folklórico Aztlán Ottawa/Gatineau, watched live video streams from Mexico City Tuesday as rescuers tried to save people from the rubble.

​"It was horrifying, it was terrible. I was in shock," said Niteo. "Right away I started to try to communicate with my family, my mom, dad, brothers and sisters, but I couldn't because land lines were off completely and the cell lines were saturated."

Niteo was eventually able to reach his brother who assured him his immediate family was safe, but said some homes on his parents' street had partially collapsed.

 Josue Nieto

Josue Nieto is president of the dance group Ballet Folklórico Aztlán Ottawa/Gatineau.

Niteo said his dance group is planning a fundraising event in the near future, but he's already hearing from the community.

"They are sending messages of support [asking], 'How can I help, what can I do, where can I donate?'" said Niteo. "We are trying to figure that out and organize that right now."

Ottawa professor, family uninjured

University of Ottawa professor Patrice Corriveau is on parental leave in Mexico City, where he lives with his wife and three young children. He was alone when the earthquake hit.

'I heard people screaming and yelling. My first reaction was to think about my family.' - Patrice Corriveau

"I heard sirens, and for probably 15 to 20 seconds I thought it was another practice," said Corriveau, referring to an emergency disaster drill held earlier that day. 

"But then I saw everything trembling, especially the buildings, they were moving right and left, said Corriveau. "I heard people screaming and yelling. My first reaction was to think about my family."

But because the telephone lines were down, Corriveau was unable to reach the his youngest child's caregiver, so he shifted his attention to his two other children.

"I ran to the school and I was lucky enough to see them. They were a bit in shock at the beginning, but they were pleased to see me," Corriveau said.

'We need to be prepared'

Corriveau said he spent a good part of Tuesday evening reassuring his children and making sure his family is prepared for any more tremors.

"Here in Mexico we receive training regarding earthquakes," Corriveau said. "We have a backpack ready to survive for 36 hours, and yesterday I made sure everything is in it."

"We're thinking about that all the time. We need to be prepared."