Mexico focuses search for quake survivors on 10 buildings; 273 dead

MEXICO CITY,  (Reuters) – Rescuers swarmed over rubble with shovels and picks yesterday in a frantic search for survivors two days after Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in a generation, focusing on 10 collapsed buildings where people may still be alive.

Those trapped included five Taiwanese workers in a textile factory in downtown Mexico City.

But the Navy said a missing schoolgirl whose fate captured the nation “did not exist,” leading to an outpouring of anger over the mix-up.

The death toll was at least 273, officials said. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said 50 people were not accounted for.

Working without pause since Tuesday afternoon’s 7.1-magnitude quake, first responders and volunteers have saved 60 survivors from central Mexico City to poor neighbourhoods far to the south.

Late on Wednesday night, an eight-year-old girl was rescued from a collapsed building in the Tlalpan neighbourhood, nearly 36 hours after the quake, local officials said.

Luis Manuel Carrillo Nunez, 14, said he was in a yoga class at the Enrique Rebsamen private school on Tuesday when he heard people yell, “It’s shaking!”

He ran to escape the building as it began collapsing.

But some classmates never made it out.

“It’s hard to know that you’re not going to see again the friends that you loved. I’m really traumatized,” he said.

The full scale of damage has not been calculated, with buildings across the city of 20 million people badly cracked. Citigroup’s Mexican unit Citibanamex told clients it was lowering its 2017 growth forecast to 1.9 percent from 2.0 percent due to the earthquake.

Some families made dangerous trips back into damaged structures to pull out possessions, and trucks with mattresses, furniture and televisions rumbled through the streets.

Despite a massive effort by volunteers and the armed forces to gather and distribute food and basic medicines, help has not reached everybody.

Thousands of people were sleeping in their cars, rather than going to shelters or damaged homes, and in the badly damaged streets in the south of the city some people held up signs begging for food.

While food, water, medicine, blankets and other basic items have been donated, some residents complained that emergency services were slow to arrive to poorer southern neighborhoods of the city, and that wealthier districts appeared prioritized.

Disaster relief is sensitive for politicians in Mexico after the government’s widely panned response to the 1985 quake caused upheaval, which some credited with weakening the one-party rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

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