Monday 16 July 2018

'I felt my house jump up and down' - Irish woman shares horror of Mexico 7.2 earthquake

  • Irish woman 'felt house jump up and down'
  • Irish man says building 'swayed' from side to side
  • 'People seem like they're in a daze, in shock'
  • Mexico earthquake death toll reaches 225
  • Nearly 5m homes and businesses lost electricity
Carol Anne Reidy felt her house 'jump up and down'
Carol Anne Reidy felt her house 'jump up and down'

Kathy Armstrong, Amy Molloy and Michael O'Boyle

An Irish woman who experienced the earthquake in Mexico said that she felt her house "jump and down", while another man said the building he was in "swayed tremendously."

The chief of Mexico's national civil defence agency said 225 people are now known to be dead following the tremor on Tuesday.

Luis Felipe Puente said in a tweet that 94 are confirmed dead in Mexico City, 71 in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla, 12 in the State of Mexico, four in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

Nearly 5 million homes, businesses and other facilities lost electricity, according to national power company Comision Federal de Electricidad, including 40 percent of homes in Mexico City. Power was later re-established to 90 percent of the areas affected.

A car sits partially buried by debris from a 7.1 earthquake, in Jojutla, Morelos state, Mexico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A car sits partially buried by debris from a 7.1 earthquake, in Jojutla, Morelos state, Mexico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A woman stands outside a partially collapsed home after an 7.1 earthquake, in Jojutla, Morelos state, Mexico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A soldier carries donations for rescue workers and victims after earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
People carry donations of bottled water for rescue workers and victims after earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A teacher sings to group of children while standing in a street to keep them calm, following an earthquake in Reforma, Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 201, in this still image from social media video. instagram/papapapokerfeis/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
People carry donations of items for rescue workers and victims after earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Rescuers work at a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Residents rest outside their homes after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Soldiers and rescue workers search in the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Soldiers and rescue workers search in the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Soldiers and rescue workers search in the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Soldiers carry donations of items for rescue workers and victims next to at a collapsed building after earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
People carry donations of bottled water for rescue workers and victims next to at a collapsed building after earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Soldiers and rescue workers search in the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A soldier stands guard next to donations of bottled water for rescue workers and victims next to a collapsed building after earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Two Irish people living in Mexico shared their stories about the terrifying tragedy and the devastation and selfless acts of kindness that followed.

Carol Anne Reidy - who lives in Cuernavaca, which is less than an hour from Mexico City - told Independent.ie: "I was actually Skyping my mum when the earthquake hit.

"The whole house jumped up and down, I think she got a worse shock than me.

"It was definitely the worst earthquake I have ever felt and I know we're so lucky that we have a concrete-built sturdy house, things fell off the shelves and some glass broke but it was basically intact.

"I thought in that moment I would never get out of the house but I managed to reach the garden, where my husband found me."

Carol Anne "moved to Mexico for six months 35 years ago and stayed since", she is married with three grown-up children.

Carol Anne with her husband
Carol Anne with her husband

Her sons live in Australia and Belgium, her daughter lives in Mexico City.

Carol Anne, who is originally from Killiney in Dublin, said: "Our internet and electricity keeps going so after the earthquake my husband and I got in the car so that we could listen to the radio and charge our phones.

"My daughter is in university in Mexico City and we were so worried about her, all we wanted to know was if she was safe.

"Her boyfriend works across the city and it took him five hours to get to her, a journey which normally takes about half an hour.

"They came and stayed with us last night but they have gone to help others in the city today.

"People seem like they're in a daze, in shock."

The earthquake occurred exactly 32 years to the day after a 1985 earthquake killed thousands in Mexico City.

Carol Anne experienced that too and says things have thankfully improved.

She said: "In 1985 I was in a building in Mexico City that wasn't as sturdy and it literally leaned over and collapsed, I'd never felt anything like that.

Carol Anne with her family
Carol Anne with her family

"Now  we have had some internet and phone access but then I had no way to immediately let my family know I was safe.

"My daughter said to me that now she knows why I don't want to live in Mexico city.

"Back then we also didn't have an Irish embassy, just a consulate that was in a building that collapsed."

Read More: Child found alive under school rubble as Mexico quake kills more than 220

Dubliner Stephen Murray has been living in Mexico for 20 years and said he had never experienced anything like the latest earthquake.

The university director said: "There had been another earthquake a few days ago so there were some suspicions there might be another.

"We had just done an earthquake simulation two hours before yesterday's one happened but I think there was no time for the alert to happen when it hit.

"I was in the first floor of a one hundred year old house, very solidly built but it swayed tremendously, it must have been awful for people in skyscrapers and apartment blocks.

"In the immediate aftermath there was a lot of people screaming and on their phones trying to contact family, parents worried about their children."

He said there has been an outpouring of "selflessness" since the earthquake.

Stephen explained: "The last 24 hours has seen tremendous volunteerism, people have been in contact with suggestions for what to do and how to identify different types of damage.

"There has been a lot of solidarity and mutual support, it's almost brotherly.

"I think Mexicans are quite like the Irish in that we don't feel embarrassment about helping each other.

"It might be because people know I'm a foreigner with no family here but I've received over a dozen calls and messages checking how I am and offering me help.

"A lot of people, particularly young people have been appealing for supplies like torches, batteries, water and even rescue dogs to help the emergency services.

"Mexico has had a bad reputation in recent years but I think overall the majority of the population are law-abiding people who have selflessly helped each other."

Stephen admits that tragedies like this would make him consider relocating.

He said: "There is a lot of questioning going on about whether you stay in a country you like, with people you like, should you take that risk.

"Or should you move somewhere that seems safer, I think if I had children I might have a different thought process and vision."

Carol Anne said that Mexico is her home now and she could never see her leaving there.

She said: "I used to get very homesick at the beginning and I still love coming home to Ireland, I come back around every six months and it's lovely to see everyone but I do miss Mexico when I'm there.

"I'm very happily married here, this is where we raised our kids and my daughter still lives here, we have a lovely life and I would never think of leaving."

Read More: 'People are texting for help from beneath the rubble' - Irishman caught up in devastating Mexico earthquake

Rescue efforts

Earlier today, television network Televisa broadcast the dramatic rescue attempt live after crews at the school in southern Mexico City reported finding the girl, seeing her move her hand and threading a hose through debris to get her water.

The identity of the girl was not immediately known. The effort to rescue her is part of a search for dozens of victims feared buried beneath the Enrique Rebsamen school, where local officials reported 21 children and 4 adults dead after Tuesday's quake. The school is one of hundreds of buildings destroyed by the country's deadliest earthquake in a generation.

As rescue efforts continued at the school, a facility for children aged 3 to 14, emergency crews, volunteers and bystanders toiled elsewhere using dogs, cameras and heat-seeking equipment to detect survivors.

Reinforcements also began to arrive from countries including Panama, Israel and Chile, local media reported.

Hundreds of neighbors and emergency workers spent the night pulling rubble from the ruins of the school with their bare hands under the glare of floodlights. Three survivors were found at around midnight as volunteer rescue teams known as "moles" crawled deep under the rubble.

By Wednesday morning, the workers said a teacher and two students had sent text messages from within the rubble. Parents clung to hope that their children were alive.

"They keep pulling kids out, but we know nothing of my daughter," said 32-year-old Adriana D'Fargo, her eyes red, who had been waiting for hours for news of her seven-year-old.

Overnight, volunteers with bullhorns shouted the names of rescued kids so that tense family members could be reunited with them.

The earthquake toppled dozens of buildings, tore gas mains and sparked fires across the city and other towns in central Mexico. Falling rubble and billboards crushed cars.

Even wealthier parts of the capital, including the Condesa and Roma neighborhoods, were badly damaged as older buildings buckled. Because bedrock is uneven in a city built on a drained lake bed, some districts weather quakes better than others.

Parts of colonial-era churches crumbled in the adjacent state of Puebla, where the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the quake's epicenter some 100 miles (158 km) southwest of the capital.

Around the same time that the earth shook, Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano, visible from the capital on a clear day, had a small eruption. On its slopes, a church in Atzitzihuacan collapsed during Mass, killing 15 people, Puebla Governor Jose Antonio Gali said.

In Rome, Pope Francis said he was praying for Mexico, a majority Catholic country. "In this moment of pain, I want to express my closeness and prayers to all the beloved Mexican people," he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you." Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke at length on Wednesday, according to the White House.

Residents of Mexico City, home to some 20 million people, slept in the streets while authorities and volunteers distributed food and water at tented collection centers.

Other volunteers, soldiers and firefighters formed human chains and dug with hammers and picks to find dust-covered survivors and bodies in the remains of apartment buildings, schools and a factory.

With each layer of rubble that was removed, workers pled onlookers and volunteers for silence, desperate to hear the sound of any survivors below.

Some volunteers in Mexico City expressed frustration at the disorganization among military and civilian emergency services, which competed over who would lead the rescue efforts.

"There is so much bureaucracy and so many obstacles in the way of getting these kids out alive," said Alfredo Perez, 52, a freelance civil engineer, who arrived at the Enrique Rebsamen school in the early hours of the morning to help.

The middle-class neighborhood of Del Valle was hit hard, with several buildings toppling over on one street. Reserve rescue workers arrived late at night and were still pulling survivors out early Wednesday.

With power out in much of the city overnight, the work was carried out with flashlights and generators.

Moises Amador Mejia, a 44-year-old employee of the civil protection agency, worked late into the night looking for people trapped in a collapsed building in the bohemian Condesa neighborhood.

"The idea is to stay here until we find who is inside. Day and night."

In Obrera, central Mexico City, people applauded when rescuers managed to retrieve four people alive, with cheers of "Si se puede." -- "Yes we can." -- ringing out.

Volunteers arrived throughout the night, following calls from the civil protection agency, the Red Cross and firefighters.

Still, much business and industry in affected areas suffered interruptions. After the quake struck, carmaker Volkswagen AG temporarily shut its sprawling Puebla factory, its biggest outside of Germany, but then restarted operations Tuesday night, according to a statement from the company.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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