Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Mexico quake rescuers race to free girl, other survivors

Published:Thursday | September 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM
People prepare to pull out a man alive from a collapsed building in the Condesa neighborhood after an earthquake struck Mexico City yesterday


The wiggling fingers of a young girl trapped in the rubble of her collapsed school in Mexico City raised hopes among hundreds of rescuers working furiously yesterday to try to free her a drama that played out at dozens of buildings toppled by the powerful earthquake that killed at least 223 people.

But it was the ongoing rescue at the Enrique Rebsamen school, where 25 people, including 21 children perished, that was seen as emblematic of Mexicans' rush to save survivors before time runs out.

Helmeted workers spotted the girl buried in the debris early yesterday and shouted to her to move her hand if she could hear. She did, and a rescue dog was sent inside to confirm that she was alive.

Hours later, the crews were still labouring to free her as images of the rescue effort were broadcast on TV screens nationwide. Workers in neon vests and helmets used ropes, pry-bars, and other tools, frequently calling on the anxious parents and others gathered around to be silent while they listened for any other voices from beneath the school.

At one point, the workers lowered a sensitive microphone inside the rubble to scan for any noise or movement. A rescuer said they thought they had located someone, but it wasn't clear who.

The death toll included 93 people killed in Mexico City; 69 in Morelos state just south of the capital; 43 in Puebla state to the southeast, where the quake was centred; 12 in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City on three sides; four in Guerrero state; and one in Oaxaca, according to the official Twitter feed of civil defense agency head Luis Felipe Puente.

President Enrique PeÒa Nieto declared three days of national mourning even as authorities made rescuing the trapped and treating the wounded their priority. "Every minute counts to save lives," PeÒa Nieto tweeted.

In the town of Jojutla in Morelos state, dozens of buildings collapsed, including the town hall. One building had been rocked off its foundations and part way into a river.