Anxiety as Mexico mounts last-ditch search for quake survivors

Remigio Civitarese
Settembre 24, 2017

On Thursday afternoon, navy Assistant Secretary Enrique Sarmiento announced that while there were blood traces and other signs suggesting someone could be alive beneath the school, all of its students had been accounted for.

The Sept. 19 quake destroyed many buildings in Mexico City, including the headquarters of the Mexican Association of the Order of Malta as well as a school run by its aid service in the country.

Tuesday's quake was centered in Puebla state, where it killed more than 40 people.

The quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit September 7 off Mexico's southern coast and also was felt strongly in the capital.

Three days of national mourning have been declared, but the mood on the street is less of sorrow than of determination to find survivors, bury the dead and quickly begin the task of rebuilding after the powerful temblor, which struck central Mexico on the 32-year anniversary of the catastrophic 1985 quake that caused 20,000 deaths.

On the Los Topos website (in Spanish) they say: "To be a Topo, all you need is to want to help people, be tenacious and fearless, and have the disposition to want to protect and help".

"I think it's important to have these moments of release", Malinalli said.

Rescuers removed dirt and debris bucketful by bucketful and passed a scanner over the rubble of the school every hour or so to search for heat signatures that could indicate trapped survivors. Rescuers continue to say there's life in the wrecked building, but there's no telling whether that includes her brother.

In Mexico City alone and according to preliminary information, 41 buildings collapsed.

No family members had emerged, however, and some officials said her identity was not clear. Rescuers called for silence so they could listen to the people who trapped.

"We can't look at resilience just as disaster management - we have to anticipate and get cities ready for this", he said. "Most of the people were at work and children were at school".

Morelos state, where the quakes epicenter was, suffered 73 deaths, followed by neighboring Puebla with 43, while seven other people perished in the southern states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, according to the latest bulletin.

There were more than 100 deaths in Mexico City, one of North America's most populous metropolises with more than 21 million people. "The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults - a woman and a man", he said.

The federal interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, said authorities had reports of people possibly still being trapped in collapsed buildings.

About 1,300 navy personnel are taking part in rescue efforts in various parts of the Mexican capital, alongside other brigades including police, Red Cross workers and civilian volunteers.

Seeking to dispel the rumours, National Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted on Thursday that heavy machinery "is NOT being used" in search-and-rescue efforts.

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