Sunday 21 January 2018

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

At least 237 people killed by magnitude 7.1 earthquake

A man walks through a door frame of a building that collapsed during the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
A man walks through a door frame of a building that collapsed during the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Rescuers search the Enrique Rebsamen primary school (AP)
A man is pulled out of the rubble alive following a quake in Mexico City. Photo: Getty Images
A woman is taken for medical assistance after being injured. Photo: Getty Images
A man trapped in a collapsed building takes a sip of water as he waits to be rescued from the rubble after the quake in Mexico City. Photo: AP
Rescue teams swarm around the Enrique Rebsamen school. Photo: Getty Images
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
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
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

Samuel Osborne

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.

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.

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.

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

Independent News Service

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