Mexico plays down quake as toll reaches 66

President Ernesto Zedillo yesterday declared one of Mexico's prime tourist playgrounds a disaster area after at least 66 people, and possibly many more, were killed in Mexico's worst earthquake since 1985. But he went ahead with his first state visit to Washington, where he was greeted at the White House by President Bill Clinton yesterday morning.

The government sought to play down the extent of Monday's quake in resorts along the Pacific coast, but it could be a crippling blow to tourism at a time when the struggling economy badly needs the income.

The government sent troops to help with rescue work after Monday's tremor, measured at 7.6 on the Richter scale.

Worst hit was the upmarket resort of Manzanillo, 325 miles west of Mexico City.The seven-storey Costa Real hotel collapsed completely, trapping 30 guests and 27 employees as guests took breakfast just after 9.30am.

Reuters reported that a 21-year-old honeymooner, Carlos Jimenez, sat with his head in his hands waiting for rescuers to bring out his bride. He had seen her buried under a huge pillar, apparently dead.

Seven police officers were killed when a police station collapsed near Manzanillo. Hotels were also damaged in another resort, Puerto Vallarta, but none collapsed.

Mr Zedillo, under fire for his handling of the economic crisis, the unsolved murders of two top politicians and a cardinal, and alleged government links with drug traffickers, was immediately criticised for going ahead with his Washington trip.

Possibly thinking of future tourist trade, he described the disaster as "not of unmanageable magnitude". That reminded Mexicans of the words of President Miguel de la Madrid in September 1985, after at least 6,000 people, and possibly up to 10,000, were killed in an earthquake registering 8.1 on the Richter scale. He declared that Mexico did not need outside help. He later had to retract that statement.

After being greeted by Mr Clinton on the South Lawn, Mr Zedillo said they would discuss illegal immigration, Mexico's economy and drug trafficking. More than 70 per cent of the cocaine consumed in the US comes through Mexico, mostly from Colombia. Asian gangs use Mexico as a transit point for heroin and it is also a major source of marijuana.

A Colombian news report at the weekend said Mr Zedillo's election campaign last year had been partly financed by Colombia's Cali cocaine cartel. Adding that Mr Zedillo was probably unaware of such funding, the report said the information had come from a cartel informant in detention in the US. Mr Zedillo's government and the US Drug Enforcement Administration denied the report.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas