Mexico earthquake: A rush to save lives amid ‘new national emergency’

Updated 5:47 PM EDT, Thu September 21, 2017

Story highlights

Death toll rises to 250, including 21 in school in Mexico City's Coapa district

Strong earthquake comes on anniversary of devastating 1985 quake

(CNN) —  

Rescuers tunneled through debris for hours Wednesday, listening for the breathing and cries of survivors after a deadly earthquake struck Mexico City and the region.

At a collapsed school, where the bodies of nearly two dozen school children were found, teams made contact with a trapped girl. She was alive.

“The priority now is continue rescuing those who are still trapped and provide medical attention to the injured,” President Enrique Peña Nieto said, calling Tuesday’s quake – the second to shake Mexico in 12 days – “a new national emergency.”

The magnitude-7.1 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.

It occurred at a depth of 51 kilometers (32 miles), which experts consider to be shallow. Shallow quakes tend to be more destructive.

“Unfortunately, many people have lost their lives, including girls and boys in schools, buildings and houses. I want to express my condolences to those who lost a family member or a loved one. Mexico shares your grief,” Peña Nieto said.

A look at the Enrique Rebsamen elementary school in Mexico City, which collapsed in the earthquake. The after photo on the right is from Wednesday, September 20, when rescuers continued to search through the rubble.

Google Earth/Getty Images

According to Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator of civil protection for the Interior Ministry, 100 of the deaths came in Mexico City, which, with an urban area of more than 21 million people, is one of the most populous cities in the Western Hemisphere.

There were also 69 deaths in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla state, 13 in the state of Mexico, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca state, according to Puente’s tally. To provide some scope of the affected area, Oaxaca de Juarez, the capital of Oaxaca state, is almost 480 kilometers (300 miles) from Mexico City.

The country has declared three days of mourning, according to Mexico’s secretary of public function.

Schools hit hard

01:12 - Source: CNN
At school, digging brings hope, frustration

Twenty-five bodies, 21 of them children, were discovered in the debris of the Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City’s Coapa district, Puente said in a tweet.

At least two children and one adult were still missing Wednesday, Secretary of Public Education Aurelio Nuño said on Twitter. Eleven people have been rescued from the school, he said.

The nation watched late Wednesday as rescuers made contact with the girl trapped in the rubble of the collapsed school. The rescue teams gave her oxygen and water, Foro TV reported. The girl “feels” two other students were close to her, but she didn’t know whether they were alive, Foro TV reported.

Those gathered around were silent, and several priests dressed in white stood off to the side.

Photos of missing students circulated on social media, while dozens of parents waited outside the school hoping to find them. The family of 7-year-old Jose Eduardo Huerta Rodriguez looked for hours through handwritten lists with the names of those who had been rescued. They also visited the city’s hospitals.

Late Tuesday, a family member who had stayed outside the school called Jose’s mother.

“He was still inside the school, and he was dead when they rescued him,” his aunt Paola Rodriguez told CNN.

Search and rescue teams pulled one person from a collapsed building in the Lindavista neighborhood of Mexico City, Interior Secretary Miguel A. Osorio Chong tweeted.

More than 2,000 public schools suffered damage in the quake, the education secretary said. Sixteen of the 212 affected schools in Mexico City had serious damage, he said.

Four people were killed and 40 more injured at the Monterrey Institute of Technology campus in Mexico City, the school said.

An unaccounted number of people are staying at shelters around the city after losing their homes. Schools have closed indefinitely, and millions remain without power.

’People screaming, children everywhere’