Mexico earthquake toll 250 as search for survivors continues

Mexico City, Sep 21 (IANS) The death toll in the powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rattled Mexico on Tuesday climbed to 250 as rescue workers backed by an army of volunteers on Thursday searched for survivors buried under mounds of rubble, officials said.

The quake turned dozens of buildings in central Mexico into dust and debris, killing at least 250 people, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera told CNN affiliate Foro TV.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declared three days of national mourning and said the death toll was expected to rise in the coming days as rescue workers combed through tonnes of rubble. “Mexico shares your pain” was posted on the President’s official Twitter account as the period of mourning was announced.

Meanwhile, at a collapsed school, where the bodies of nearly two dozen school children were found, rescue teams raced against the clock to reach a trapped girl, who had wriggled fingers from the rubble to show she was alive.

The girl, identified only as Frida Sofía, told rescuers there were other students nearby but she could not tell if they were alive. More than 30 children were still unaccounted for.

Rescuers had been hauling chunks of lumber and concrete from the debris as others tried to shore up parts of the collapsed structure with beams. Workers were close to pinpointing the girl’s location on Thursday morning, Mexican Navy Adm. Jose Luis Vergara told Foro TV.

“At this moment we know that at least one girl is alive inside,” Vergara said.

At least 44 buildings collapsed completely in Mexico City, according to official figures, with thousands left damaged and unstable in the sprawling city, which is built on a drained lake bed. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera said 52 people had been pulled alive from the rubble of collapsed buildings.

A total of 115 were killed in Mexico City, Mancera confirmed.

The President ordered the evacuation of patients from damaged hospitals amid widespread power cuts and fears of more buildings collapsing from aftershocks.

It was the second major earthquake to hit Mexico in two weeks and came on the anniversary of the 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City, killing thousands. Just hours before the latest quake, many people took part in drills and commemorative events.

Many residents spent a second night in parks and plazas, in tents or makeshift shelters, unable or unwilling to return to their homes as authorities inspected some 600 buildings whose walls swayed and cracked when the quake struck.

US President Donald Trump called President Peña Nieto to offer condolences, and the White House said it was offering search-and-rescue assistance.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray thanked the international community for offers of help in an unusual special intervention at the UN General Assembly.

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