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More Than 200 Dead After Huge Earthquake Rocks Mexico City

  • VOA News

A man is rescued from a collapsed building in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City after an earthquake in Mexico, Sept. 19, 2017.

Rescue workers searched Wednesday in Mexico City and nearby states in hopes of finding survivors of a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that has killed at least 217 people and collapsed dozens of buildings.

Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong said Mexican armed forces and police will continue working until they exhaust all possibilities of finding more people alive.

Civilians joined search and rescue teams shortly after the earthquake struck Tuesday afternoon, using heavy machinery and their bare hands to remove piles of rubble.

As of early Wednesday, the head of Mexico's civil defense agency, Luis Felipe Puente, said on Twitter 86 deaths were reported in Mexico City, 71 deaths in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla state, 12 in Mexico state, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca. He revised the numbers down from an earlier total of 248 dead.

The epicenter of the quake was in Puebla, 123 kilometers southeast of Mexico City.

A car sits crushed, engulfed in a pile of rubble from a building felled by a 7.1 earthquake, in Jojutla, Morelos state, Mexico, Sept. 19, 2017.
A car sits crushed, engulfed in a pile of rubble from a building felled by a 7.1 earthquake, in Jojutla, Morelos state, Mexico, Sept. 19, 2017.

Ken Hudnut, a science adviser with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California, said Mexico City's geology probably contributed to the building collapses.

"Some of the buildings are on old lake beds, and that can amplify the shaking and cause the shaking to last longer, and that can make for more damage," Hudnut told VOA.

President Enrique Pena Nieto visited a three-story school in the capital city that collapsed and was the site of one of the rescue operations. Mexico's education secretary, Aurelio Nuno, said 25 people were killed at the school, while 11 others were rescued and 30 were missing.

Pena Nieto also issued a video address saying the government's priorities are rescuing those trapped by the earthquake and getting medical aid to the injured. He expressed condolences to those who lost a loved one and said Mexico shares in their grief.

Local media reported extensive damage, power outages and fires throughout Mexico City, one of the most populous urban areas in the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump sent a message of support for Mexico from New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump tweeted: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."

People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, Sept 19, 2017.
People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, Sept 19, 2017.

Mexican authorities suspended operations at the international airport and closed schools.

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.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said the two epicenters are 650 kilometers apart and most aftershocks are within 100 kilometers.

Tuesday's earthquake was centered near the town of Raboso, in Puebla. It hit at 1:14 p.m., local time. Puebla Governor Tony Gali reported there also was significant damage in the nearby city of Cholula, where collapsed church steeples fell into the streets.

The earthquake struck exactly 32 years after an 8.0 temblor killed nearly 10,000 people in and around Mexico City.

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