Rescuers are racing against time to save a trapped 12-year-old girl as they labour for a second night amid the rubble of a school that collapsed after a powerful earthquake rocked Mexico.
At least 237 people were killed by the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck about 150km southeast of Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon, 32 years after a 1985 quake killed thousands.
It comes as news emerges of the deaths of 11 family members, including a two-month-old girl who was being christened, when a baptism turned to tragedy after the roof caved in at a church.
The only survivors were the girl’s father, the priest and the priest’s assistant, the Archdiocese of Puebla said.
0:00 Dramatic moment as side of building collapses during Mexico quake Share Dramatic moment as side of building collapses during Mexico quake
At least four minors were among the dead.
“It was a scene of horror, sadness with most of the people inside the church dying,” priest’s assistant Lorenzo Sanchez told The Associated Press.
Sanchez said those who survived moved to the edges of the church when the swaying started while those who died didn’t have time to do so.
“One of the things they taught us is to stick to the firm walls of our church, which is old and its structure a bit deteriorated,” he said.
Authorities search the building rubble for survivors as the death toll rises to 230.AFP
When the ground stopped shaking, people called for help using loudspeakers and residents of nearby communities quickly arrived in Atzala with shovels, pickaxes and chains to haul away rubble.
They dug for hours through the crumbling remains of the Santiago Apostol church but found the 11 relatives had died.
Covered in dust and exhausted, the rescuers laid the bodies out on the same street where a party was meant to be held after the baptism.
Family members of the dead travelled overnight from other states to attend Wednesday’s wake in Puebla.
Each coffin had a name attached: Florencio, Fidela, Aurelia, Manuela, Maria de Jesus, Carmen, Samuel, Azucena, Feliciana, Susana and Elideth – the girl who was to be baptised.
0:00 Mexico City: Two children rescued from rubble of a collapsed school Share Mexico City: Two children rescued from rubble of a collapsed school
Search for school survivors continue
Rescuers are working frantically to dig a young girl out from under the rubble of a partially collapsed school amid devastation.
They were able to communicate with the girl, identified only as Frida Sofia, who responded there were two other students nearby but could not tell if they were alive, according to broadcaster Televisa.
The dramatic rescue attempt was aired live on Wednesday 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 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 were already recovered from the Enrique Rebsamen School.
0:00 Mexico earthquake: Twenty-one children dead in school collapse as toll hits nearly 250 Share Mexico earthquake: Twenty-one children dead in school collapse as toll hits nearly 250
They and other parents clung to hope after rescue teams reported a teacher and two students had sent text messages from within the rubble.
About 14 hours after the effort began, rescue workers in hard hats made an urgent plea on camera for beams and chains to support parts of the school ruins that were collapsing.
“We have a lot of hope that some will still be rescued,” volunteer David Porras said.
“But we’re slow, like turtles.”
0:00 The moment a dog is rescued after Mexico City earthquake Share The moment a dog is rescued after Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers periodically demanded “total silence” bystanders to better hear calls for help.
As rescue efforts continued at the school, emergency crews, volunteers and bystanders toiled elsewhere using dogs, cameras and heat-seeking equipment to detect survivors.
Hundreds of neighbours 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.
Rescue teams work at the Rbsamen school in Mexico City (Getty Images)Getty Images
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 priority continues to be rescuing people from collapsed buildings and taking care of the injured,” said President Enrique Pena Nieto. “Every minute counts.”
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 neighbourhoods, were badly damaged as older buildings buckled.
RT @ElGuardiaCholo: #Mexico City #earthquake #CiudaddeMexico #temblor #AlertaSismica #SimulacroCDMX #sismodel85 pic南京夜生活,/5j7qtKS8b8
— • V ä ł Å ñ g ł ę • (@0vangle0) 19 September 2017Another building exploded after the earthquake in Mexico Citypic南京夜生活,/GjYBKFfHp5
— Jemisha Johnson (@jemisha_johnson) 19 September 2017
Parts of colonial-era churches crumbled in the adjacent state of Puebla, where the US Geological Survey put the quake’s epicentre about 158km 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.
US 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.
God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 19 September 2017
Residents of Mexico City, home to about 20 million people, slept in the streets while authorities and volunteers distributed food and water at tented collection centres.
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 power out in much of the city overnight, the work was carried out with flashlights and generators.
0:00 Devastating scenes during Mexican earthquake Share Devastating scenes during Mexican earthquake