Home » Headlines » 7.1 quake hits Mexico: Hundreds dead

7.1 quake hits Mexico: Hundreds dead

By ASSOCIATED PRESS, With reports from Roy C. Mabasa and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

MEXICO CITY – A powerful earthquake shook central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings in plumes of dust and killing at least 217 people. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

The Mexico quake happened as the Philippines is preparing for another simultaneous nationwide earthquake drill upon the recommendation of state volcanologists who have warned that the “Big One”, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake to be generated by the West Valley Fault, may happen anytime.

Dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed sickeningly.

Hours after the magnitude 7.1 quake, rescue workers were still clawing through the wreckage of a primary school that partly collapsed in the city’s south looking for any children who might be trapped. Some relatives said they had received Whatsapp message from two girls inside.

The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday night that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether the deaths were included in the overall death toll of 226 reported by the federal civil defense agency.

President Enrique Pena Nieto visited the school earlier in the night. At the time, he said 22 bodies had been found, and added in comments broadcast online by Financiero TV that 30 children and eight adults were reported missing. Rescuers were continuing their search and pausing to listen for voices from the rubble.

Later, Pena Nieto issued a video message urging calm and saying the initial focus of authorities is on finding people trapped in fallen buildings.

“The priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people,” he said.

The quake is the deadliest in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country’s south.

Luis Felipe Puente, head of the national Civil Defense agency, reported early Wednesday that the confirmed death toll had increased to 226.

His tweet said 117 dead had been counted in Mexico City and 55 in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital.
It said 39 were known dead in Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, and three in Guerrero state.

The federal government declared a state of disaster in Mexico City, freeing up emergency funds. President Enrique Pena Nieto said he had ordered all hospitals to open their doors to the injured.

The Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed in Jojutla, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill that the school held in the morning was a boon when the real thing hit just two hours later.

Earlier in the day, workplaces across Mexico City held earthquake readiness drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.0 shake that killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of the capital.

Mexico City’s international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for damage.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it has not received reports of any Filipino casualty in the earthquake that rocked Mexico City.

According to the DFA, the magnitude 7.1 temblor sent a number of structures crumbling and left many others, including the building housing the Philippine Embassy in Mexico City, badly damaged.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Palace extended condolences to those killed in the quake.