Deadly aftershock, volcanic ash spread alarm in Mexico

By Michael O’Boyle and Noe Torres

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A magnitude 6.2 aftershock that shook Mexico on Saturday was blamed for five deaths, spreading fear among anxious residents reeling from a string of natural disasters and interrupting the search for survivors from a bigger tremor earlier this week.

The Popocatepetl volcano south of Mexico City sent a column of ash into the sky, capping an intense period of seismic activity including two powerful tremors this month that have killed more than 400 people and caused damage of up to $8 billion.

Mexico’s capital was shattered by Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake that flattened dozens of buildings and killed at least 307 people. The government’s response to the disaster is under close scrutiny ahead of a presidential election next year.

Although the latest quake was not as destructive, fear is running high among the population. Terrified residents ran into the streets, where they crouched and prayed as earthquake sirens went off. Two women died of heart attacks as the ground shook, the city government said.

Tents were set up in different parts of the city where psychologists offered mental health support to survivors and rescuers traumatized by the natural disasters. Acts of solidarity came from all corners of Mexican society.

Tuesday’s quake hit on the anniversary of a 1985 tremor that, by some estimates, killed 10,000 people.

Roxana Trani, a 30-year-old banker, was one of the thousands of young Mexicans who turned to social media to find out how to help. She joined one of the aid collection centers that popped up in Mexico City and traveled to Puebla state in one of many convoys flooding from the city to more isolated communities.

“I never understood why the people who suffered the ’85 quake were so afraid of the slightest tremors. Now I get it,” Trani said.

“Being at a funeral and seeing all the pain that one minute caused has changed me,” she said.

FEAR OF COLLAPSE

Concern that the aftershock could cause further collapses paralyzed rescue efforts at a housing complex in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City, frustrating first responders who believed people were alive under the rubble.

By the evening, hard-hatted first responders were again digging for bodies or survivors in a dwindling number of rubble heaps. Their work barely skipped a beat elsewhere when earthquake alarms twice rang out across the city.

The United States Geological Survey said the latest quake was relatively shallow with an epicenter near…

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