Mexico City earthquake: Rescuers struggle to free schoolgirl buried by rubble

At least 237 people killed by magnitude 7.1 earthquake

Samuel Osborne@SamuelOsborne93
Thursday 21 September 2017 07:26
Rescue workers search through the rubble for students at Enrique Rebsamen school after an earthquake in Mexico City
Rescue workers search through the rubble for students at Enrique Rebsamen school after an earthquake in Mexico City

Mexican rescuers are working to reach a 12-year-old girl trapped beneath a collapsed school and to save other possible survivors buried in rubble following the country's most deadly earthquake in three decades.

At least 237 people were killed by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake, which struck about 90 miles (150km) southeast of Mexico City on Thursday afternoon, 32 years to the day after a 1985 quake killed thousands.

Rescue workers were able to communicate with the girl, identified as Frida Sofia, who said there were two other students nearby, but she could not tell if they were alive, according to broadcaster Televisa.

The sight of her wiggling fingers became a symbol for the hope driving thousands of professionals and volunteers to work frantically at dozens of wrecked buildings across the capital and nearby states looking for survivors.

Thermal imaging suggested several more people might be in the airspace around her.

Mexico earthquake: Many die in school collapse

A volunteer rescue worker, Hector Mendez, said cameras lowered into the rubble suggested there might be four people still inside, but he added that it wasn't clear if anyone beside the girl was alive.

The girl's full name was not made public, but her family waited in anguish nearby, knowing the bodies of 21 school children and four adults hd already been recovered from the Enrique Rebsamen School.

They and other parents clung to hope after rescue teams reported a teacher and two students had sent text messages from within the rubble.

Rescuers moved slowly, erecting makeshift wooden scaffolding to prevent rubble from crumbling further and seeking a path to the child through the unstable ruins. As in rescue scenes throughout the central Valley of Mexico, officials ruled out using heavy equipment as long as there were signs of life below.

They periodically demanded "total silence" bystanders, who would freeze in place and stay quiet, to better hear calls for help.

Similar efforts have pulled more than 50 survivors from buildings around the country, President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a national address.

A man was pulled alive from a partly collapsed apartment building in northern Mexico City more than 24 hours after the quake and taken away in a stretcher, apparently conscious.

Fifty-two buildings collapsed in Mexico City alone, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera told reporters.

Rescue workers search for children trapped inside the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City

The earthquake struck a mere 32 miles (31km) beneath the surface, sending major shockwaves through the metropolitan area of some 20 million people. Much of the capital is built upon an ancient lake bed that shakes like jelly during a quake.

Initial reports suggest that collapses were limited mostly to buildings that predated the 1985 quake, after which stricter building codes were enacted.

Mexico was still recovering from another powerful tremor that killed nearly 100 people in the south of the country less than two weeks ago.

Reinforcements from other countries began to arrive and more were on the way.

The United States, Israel, Spain, Japan and several Latin American countries had already responded with technical assistance and rescue teams, the president said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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