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There is No Missing Girl in School, Says Mexico Navy Official

  • VOA News

Rescue workers, some holding their arms up as a sign to maintain silence, search for survivors at an apartment building at Amsterdam and Laredo streets that collapsed during an earthquake in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, Mexico, Sept. 21, 2017.

There is no missing child at a collapsed Mexico City school, according to a high-ranking navy official, though there may be an adult still alive in the debris where an intensive rescue effort has been under way after Tuesday's massive earthquake that has killed more than 245 people and injured at least 2,000.

Navy Assistant Secretary Angel Enrique Sarmiento said all of the school's children have been accounted for, although traces of blood and other signs indicate someone might be alive in the rubble.

"We have done an accounting with school officials and we are certain that all of the children either died, unfortunately, are in hospitals, or are safe at their homes," Sarmiento said.

WATCH: Foreign Crews Help Rescue Efforts in Quake-hit Mexico

​Rescue teams in central Mexico have been working around the clock in search of survivors, and focus had turned to the plight of a girl identified as Frida Sofia, who was reported to have been located alive under the flattened school building. No family members had emerged, however, and some officials said her identity was not clear.

5,000 schools damaged

Since the 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck, workers at the school have found 26 people dead there, including 21 children. The school was one of more than 5,000 schools damaged by the earthquake, according to Mexico's education secretary.

Neighbors organize their belongings on the sidewalk as they collect items from their earthquake-damaged building in the Ciudad Jardin neighborhood of Mexico City, Sept. 21, 2017.
Neighbors organize their belongings on the sidewalk as they collect items from their earthquake-damaged building in the Ciudad Jardin neighborhood of Mexico City, Sept. 21, 2017.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the number of confirmed dead in the capital had risen from 100 to 115. He also said two women had been pulled out alive Wednesday night from a collapsed office building in the center of the city.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said at least 50 people had been pulled out 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 Mexicans' rapid response to the disaster, while stressing that the priorities remain saving lives and getting medical attention to those in need.

"I need to recognize the volunteers who are unconditionally helping those who need it," Pena Nieto said.

A view of a scene where rescuers searched for survivors after Tuesday's 7.1 earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico, Sept. 21, 2017. (C. Mendoza/VOA)
A view of a scene where rescuers searched for survivors after Tuesday's 7.1 earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico, Sept. 21, 2017. (C. Mendoza/VOA)

"Once again, Mexicans have demonstrated that the strength of solidarity is much greater," the president's office posted in a tweet that included a video showing thousands of people involved in relief efforts.

Help from abroad

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.

The United States Agency for International Development sent a team of more than 60 disaster responders and tools and medical equipment to Mexico City on Thursday.

"They'll be working closely with Mexican disaster authorities to help rescue earthquake survivors and assess structures for earthquake damage," said USAID Administrator Mark Green.

A 32-member search-and-rescue team from Panama arrived with two dogs Wednesday.

A group of 32 rescuers from Panama arrived with two canine rescuers to help find people trapped in collapsed buildings and dig them out. They arrived at the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Sept. 20, 2017. (C. Mendoza/VOA)
A group of 32 rescuers from Panama arrived with two canine rescuers to help find people trapped in collapsed buildings and dig them out. They arrived at the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Sept. 20, 2017. (C. Mendoza/VOA)

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 has also accepted the technical and specialized help offered by Spain, Japan and other Latin American countries that have experience dealing with the type of disaster his country is facing.

Mexico City's international airport sustained some structural damage, but Pena Nieto said the airport has returned to normal operations.

Loss of communications

Canadian travel blogger Mike Corey was in Mexico City when the earthquake hit. 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."

IN PHOTOS: Crews in Mexico City Search for Quake Victims

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.

VOA's Victor Beattie, Steve Miller and Celia Mendoza contributed to this report.

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