Frida Sofia (12): the Mexico City quake 'survivor' who was never there
'No missing child' at collapsed Mexican school where rescuers have been hunting for 'trapped' girl
Authorities have said there are no missing children at a collapsed Mexico City school where rescuers have been hunting for a girl they believed was trapped.
Assistant navy secretary Angel Enrique Sarmiento said there was evidence of a person who may still alive, but it was probably a school worker.
The search for the supposedly missing girl has been a focus of attention across the country as a symbol of hope following Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake.
Mr Sarmiento said 11 children were rescued alive after the quake, while 19 children and six adults died.
"We have done an accounting with school officials and we are certain that all the children either died, unfortunately, are in hospitals or are safe at their homes," Mr Sarmiento said.
The attention of many in Mexico and abroad had been drawn to the plight of a girl identified only as Frida Sofia, who was said to have been located alive under the pancaked school building and became a symbol for the hopes of thousands of rescuers working around the clock in search of quake survivors.
Rescuers at the school site spoke of the girl, with some saying she had reported five more children alive in the same space.
Yet no family members had emerged while rescue efforts continued and some officials had begun to say her identity was not clear.
The revelation that there never was a Frida Sofía infuriated many Mexicans, who felt they’d been fed a false narrative of hope by press and public officials, according to the Guardian newspaper.
“People are angry,” said Esteban Illades, editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos. “Frida was the story.”
The Guardian reported that some compared the episode to the story of Monchito, a nine-year-boy who was the focus of a massive rescue attempt from the rubble of Mexico City’s devastating 1985 earthquake, but turned out not to have existed.
Televisa anchors also expressed frustration: “The federal government always told us there was a girl and they were about to rescue her. Now they changed their version. Outrageous,” tweeted anchor Carlos Loret de Mola.
Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 quake killed at least 245 people in central Mexico and injured more than 2,000.
That included at least 21 children and five adults at the Enrique Rebsamen school in southern Mexico City.
Earlier on Thursday, the navy announced it had recovered the body of an employee at the school.
Mexico City mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the number of confirmed dead in the capital had risen from 100 to 115, bringing the overall toll from the quake to 245.
He also said two women and a man had been pulled alive from a collapsed office building in the city's centre on Wednesday night, nearly 36 hours after the quake.
Still, frustration was growing as the rescue effort stretched into a third day.
Outside a collapsed seven-storey office building in the trendy Roma Norte district, a list of those rescued was strung between two trees.
Relatives of the missing compared it against their own list of those who were in the building when the quake struck - more than two dozen names - kept in a spiral notebook.
President Enrique Pena Nieto declared three days of mourning as soldiers, police, firefighters and citizens dug through the rubble, at times with their hands, gaining an inch at a time.
"There are still people groaning. There are three more floors to remove rubble from. And you still hear people in there," said Evodio Dario Marcelino, a volunteer working with dozens of others at a collapsed apartment building.
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 on a stretcher, apparently conscious
In all, 52 people had been rescued alive since the quake, the city's Social Development Department said, adding in a tweet: "We won't stop."
It was a race against time, Mr Pena Nieto warned in a tweet of his own, saying that "every minute counts to save lives".
People have rallied to help their neighbors in a huge volunteer effort that includes people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix.
Doctors, dentists and lawyers stood alongside construction workers and road sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.
In addition to those killed in Mexico City, the federal civil defence agency said 69 died in Morelos state just south of the capital and 43 in Puebla state to the south east, where the quake was centred.
The rest of the deaths were in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City on three sides, Guerrero and Oaxaca states.