Rescuers in harrowing school search as Mexico quake toll hits 225

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Rescue workers scrabbled through piles of rubble on Wednesday in a harrowing search for dozens of children feared buried under a Mexico City school, among hundreds of buildings destroyed by the country’s most lethal earthquake in a generation.

The magnitude 7.1 quake on Tuesday killed at least 225 people, nearly half of them in the capital, 32 years to the day after a devastating 1985 quake. Mexico is also still reeling from a powerful tremor that killed nearly 100 people in the south of the country less than two weeks ago.

Among the twisted concrete and steel ruin of the Enrique Rebsamen school, soldiers and firefighters found the bodies of at least 22 children and two adults, while another 30 children and 12 adults were missing, President Enrique Pena Nieto said. The public school is for children aged 3 to 14.

Hundreds of neighbors 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.

On 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 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 neighborhoods, were badly damaged as older buildings buckled. Because bedrock is uneven in a city built on a drained lake bed, some districts weather quakes better than others.

Parts of colonial-era churches crumbled in the adjacent state of Puebla, where the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the quake’s epicenter some 100 miles (158 km) southwest of the capital.

VOLCANO ERUPTS TOO

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…

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