Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Mexico earthquake death toll reaches 293

Mexico has raised the death toll from Tuesday's earthquake to 293, with more than half the fatalities in the capital.

National Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente said there were 155 dead in Mexico City.

In a tweet on Friday, Mr Puente said the tolls remained unchanged elsewhere with 73 in Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico state, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

AP

Hope mixed with fear on a 60ft stretch of bike lane in central Mexico City, where families huddled under tents and donated blankets awaited word of their loved ones trapped in a four-storey pile of rubble behind them.

On day four of the search for survivors after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake brought down the seven-floor office building and many others, hope rose and fell with a change in the weather; word that Japanese rescuers had joined the recovery effort; officials' assurances that people remained alive inside; and a call from a familiar number.

For Patricia Fernandez Romero, who spent the morning on a yellow folding stool under a handwritten list with the names of the 46 missing, it was remembering how badly her 27-year-old son Ivan Colin Fernandez, sang and realising how much she wanted to hear him again.

"There are moments when you feel like you're breaking down," Ms Fernandez said.

"And there are moments when you're a little calmer. They are all moments that you wouldn't wish on anyone."

Along the bike lane, where families slept in tents, accepting food and coffee from strangers, people have organised to present a united front to authorities, who they pressed ceaselessly for information about their loved ones.

They were told that water and food had been passed along to at least some of those trapped inside.

On Friday morning, after hours of inactivity blamed on rain, rescuers were readying to re-enter the site, joined by teams from Japan and Israel.

Jose Gutierrez, a civil engineer attached to the rescue who has a relative trapped in the wreckage, gathered other families of the missing to let them know what was going on.

"My family is in there. I want them to get out," he said, his voice breaking. "So we go onward."

A rollercoaster of emotions played out for Roberta Villegas Miguel, who was awaiting word of her 37-year-old son, Paulino Estrada Villegas, an accountant who worked on the fourth floor and was married with two young daughters.

Wrapped in a fuzzy turquoise blanket against the morning chill, she said that her daughter-in-law was contacted by a friend who said she had received a call from a mobile number that belonged to her son, but there was no conversation.

Her daughter-in-law ran to authorities with the information, but hours later returned to say that it was her husband's old number.

At first they held out hope that he had given his old phone's card to a co-worker who was using it to call out of the building. But eventually authorities traced the call to Queretaro state, extinguishing the latest glimmer of hope.

Meanwhile, the time was nearing for bulldozers to be brought in to clear rubble and replace the delicate work of rescuers, though officials went to great pains to say it was still a rescue operation.

National Civil Defence chief Luis Felipe Puente acknowledged that diggers and bulldozers were starting to clear away some wrecked buildings where no life has been detected or where teetering piles of rubble threatened to collapse on neighbouring structures.

"It is false that we are demolishing structures where there could be survivors," he said.

"The rescue operations will continue, and they won't stop."

AP

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph