Desperate searchers shouted “quiet” and listened for faint voices in the rubble where a Mexican school once stood, as rescuers used trained dogs and their bare hands to reach any survivors of Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 earthquake that killed more than 200 people.
The powerful earthquake struck near the town of Raboso in Puebla, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. By Wednesday, the death toll rose to 225 after the quake toppled homes, schools and apartment buildings.
“We dug holes, then crawled in on our bellies,” volunteer rescue worker Pedro Serrano, 29, a doctor, told The Associated Press. “We managed to get into a collapsed classroom. We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults — a woman and a man.”
At least 25 bodies were recovered from Escuela Enrique Rebsamen – all but four of the victims were children. Serrano said he found all the people in a classroom dead, and heard “small noises” near the site, though it’s unclear which direction it was coming from. A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school’s rubble. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.
Most of the deaths have been reported in Mexico City, where at least 94 people were killed, Luis Felipe Puente, head of Mexico’s national civil defense agency, said. Another 71 people were killed in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla, 12 in the State of Mexico, four in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.
The deadly earthquake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people. Residents in Mexico had conducted earthquake drills just hours earlier. The earthquake occurred just two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 tremor in the south of the country killed more than 90 people and caused buildings in Mexico City to sway for more than a minute. President Enrique Pena Nieto called that earthquake the biggest quake the country has seen in a century.
— Presidencia México (@PresidenciaMX) September 20, 2017