Rescue teams in Mexico worked Thursday to reach those still trapped among the dozens of buildings that fell during a massive earthquake that has killed more than 230 people.
One search in Mexico City took place at a school where on Wednesday workers spotted a girl buried in the debris and were able to confirm she was still alive by asking her to move her hand.
That search went through the overnight hours into Thursday, with precautions being taken to avoid shifting the unstable pile of rubble as they tried to reach her.
“The girl told us her name, Frida,” rescue worker Rodolfo Ruvalcava told FORO TV. “Apart from just her name, she told us there were two other kids, and that there were other bodies. We don’t know if the others are alive”
Dozens die at school
Since the magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Tuesday, workers at the school have found 25 people dead there, including 21 children. The school is one of what Mexico’s education secretary said was more than 5,000 schools damaged by the earthquake.
Another search in the capital city took place in Colonia Roma, one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. At an office building that collapsed, a VOA reporter saw three people rescued from the rubble Wednesday.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said at least 50 people had been pulled alive from buildings in Mexico City. He declared three days of mourning for those who have died and expressed the country’s condolences to their friends and family.
He also praised the way Mexicans have responded to the disaster, while stressing the priority remains saving lives and getting medical attention to those who need it.
“Once again, Mexicans have demonstrated that the strength of solidarity is much greater,” the president’s office tweeted along with a video showing thousands of people involved in relief efforts. Those included lines of people passing buckets to clear away rubble a few pieces at a time, rescuers tending to the injured, people bringing piles of supplies to help out and volunteers working to distribute them to those in need of help.
“I need to recognize the volunteers who are unconditionally helping those who need it,” Pena Nieto said.
Help from other nations
In addition to the local response in Mexico City and the states of Morelos, Puebla, Mexico, Guerrero and Oaxaca, help is coming from other nations.
A 32-member search and rescue team from Panama arrived with two dogs Wednesday. U.S. President Donald Trump offered search and rescue teams and other assistance during a phone call with Pena Nieto as well.
The Israeli military said it would send a team of 70 people to help with rescue efforts by providing engineering assistance.
Pena Nieto said his government accepted the technical and specialized help offered by the United States, Spain, Israel, Japan and other Latin American countries that have experience dealing with the type of disaster his country is facing.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera also expressed gratitude for the international aid.
The city’s international airport sustained some structural damage in the earthquake, but Pena Nieto said the airport has returned to normal operations.
‘Like being in a pinball machine’
Canadian travel blogger Mike Corey was in Mexico City when the earthquake hit. He told VOA he was sitting in his apartment when the building started shaking.
“The building was just jumping. … I remember running down the stairs to get to the bottom and it was like being in a pinball machine,” he said.
When he went outside, he said he saw all the buildings and power lines shaking. He said he saw a five-story building collapse “like a deck of cards.”
“You could see black smoke off in the horizon. Helicopters were up immediately flying over the city,” he said. “We went over to see if we could help at the building, but there was blood on the street, glass all over the place; we had bare feet. What are we going to do?”
The scariest part of the ordeal, he said, was the loss of cell reception, “which is not good if you’re trapped underneath things.”
“I guarantee that cost lives, because someone’s there, they can’t contact anybody and they’re trapped under rubble,” he said.
Pope Francis acknowledged the victims of the earthquake during an open prayer Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, saying he wanted to “express my closeness and prayer to the dear Mexican people.”
The quake hit less than two weeks after another earthquake killed more than 90 people in the country’s south. The U.S. Geological Survey said the two quakes appeared to be unrelated.
The earthquake struck exactly 32 years after an 8.0 temblor killed nearly 10,000 people in and around Mexico City.