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More buildings at risk of collapse following Mexico quake

As many as 360 buildings and homes are in danger of collapse or with major damage in Mexico City nearly a week after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake collapsed 38 structures.

The cupola of Our Lady of Angels Church, damaged and cracked by the September 19 quake, split in half and crashed to the ground on Sunday evening. There were no injuries.

Nervous neighbours continued calling police on Monday as apparently new cracks appeared in their apartment buildings or existing ones worsened, even as the city struggled to get back to normality.

Education secretary Aurelio Nuno said that officials had cleared only 676 of Mexico City's nearly 9,000 schools to reopen on Tuesday and said it could be two to three weeks before all are declared safe, leaving hundreds of thousands of children idle.

Mexico City mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said at least seven schools were among the buildings thought to be at risk of tumbling.

At several points in the city, employees gathered on pavements in front of their workplaces on Monday refusing to enter because they feared their buildings could collapse.

"We are afraid for our own safety," said Maribel Martinez Ramirez, an employee of a government development agency who, along with dozens of co-workers, refused to enter. "The building is leaning, there are cracks."

Mr Mancera said 360 "red level" buildings would either have to be demolished or receive major structural reinforcement. An additional 1,136 are reparable, and 8,030 buildings inspected so far were found to be habitable.

Search teams were still digging through dangerous piles of rubble, hoping against the odds to find survivors. The city has accounted for 186 of the 325 dead nationwide.

Juan Carlos Penas, in charge of a Spanish rescue team working at the remains of what had been a seven-story office building, said that the work was very slow because the rubble was so unstable. Rescuers managed to make a small entry between the second and third floors and insert a camera, but they did not immediately find anyone.

While no one has been found alive since last Wednesday, relatives of the trapped, anxious to cling to any hope of rescue, won injunctions against actions that could cause the ruins to collapse further.

The federal judiciary council said on Sunday that court injunctions for seven points around the city prevent authorities from using backhoes or bulldozers to remove rubble, in order to allow "search and rescue operations to continue... to preserve the life of people who may be among the remains of the structures".


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