New quake shakes traumatized Mexico City

A new earthquake sowed panic in Mexico City on Saturday, forcing a brief pause in rescue operations to free survivors from the more powerful tremor this week that devastated parts of the capital.

The new quake, with a magnitude of 6.1, was smaller and farther to the south than the 7.1-magnitude one that struck on Tuesday, killing more than 300 people and toppling 39 buildings in the capital.

But as an alarm sounded, hundreds of residents raced out into the street, some barefoot, some carrying children.

Trauma from the previous quake was evident.

“Oh God, have mercy,” exclaimed Teresa Martinez, 74, who had run out in to the street for safety. She stood with other women, all crying.

Two women died of heart attacks as they tried to leave their homes, according to local media reports. One was in her 80s and the other was 52, according to the website of the daily Reforma.

The quake rattled crockery and made buildings sway, but some didn’t notice.

“This time, we didn’t feel the ground move… maybe since the last one we’re getting used to them,” said Pablo Martinez, who had run out of his central apartment building with his six-year-old daughter in his arms.

The US Geological Survey registered the latest quake at 6.1 magnitude. It struck at 12:53 GMT with an epicenter 18 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of the city of Matias Romero, in the southern state of Oaxaca.

A bridge near the town of Juchitan collapsed, with television images showing it severed and buckled. Other buildings with previous damage collapsed.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter that the bridge “will have to be rebuilt.”

– Elevated risk –

The new tremor sparked concern it could have caused heavy rubble on top of survivors awaiting rescue in the capital to shift — posing a danger both to those trapped and to rescuers.

Mexican and foreign rescue crews rapidly evacuated five sites in the capital where they had been working.

Crews hesitated for a couple of hours, discussing the added risk, before going back in to look for survivors.

Mexico City’s mayor, Miguel Angel Mancera, told Televisa television that around “30 people may yet be able to be found in this search and rescue operation.”

“We’ve been told they have detected areas with life. They’ve sent in dogs and the dogs have indicated life,” Paola Solorio, a 35-year-old who had three relatives trapped, told AFP.

But the smell of decaying bodies wafting out from the buildings four days after the quake presaged grief for several relatives. Rescue workers wore face masks to shield themselves from the odor.

– Race to find survivors –

Anxious families have been carrying out vigils at the flattened sites, urging exhausted emergency workers to keep trying to reach their loved ones, despite the odds of survival being all but extinguished.

“A lot of time has passed (since Tuesday’s quake). But we won’t give up,” the civil protection service, Luis Felipe Puente, vowed.

“Time has gotten the best of us. There are structures that are very complicated to access. But we’re going to keep fighting for the families,” he told TV network Televisa.

Psychologists dispatched to the scene were already preparing to help relatives deal with tragic news.

“The families are still hopeful, but we psychologists are starting to prepare ourselves to counsel them in the context of mourning,” said Penelope Exzacarias, who was on standby at a collapsed office building in Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood.

Some 70 people were at work in the building when the 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck. Only 28 have made it out alive — all in the first hours.

Many Mexicans remember “miracle” rescues a week after a 1985 quake that killed more than 10,000 people in the capital, spurring hopes that people might yet be pulled out alive.

– Rising death toll –

The latest overall death toll stands at 305, of which more than half — 167 fatalities — were recorded in Mexico City.

The rest of the deaths occurred in the states of Morelos, Mexico, Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

The toll includes eight foreigners: four Taiwanese, a Korean, a Spaniard, a Panamanian and an Argentine, authorities said.

Several countries, including the United States, Israel, Japan, Panama and EU states have sent crews to help the rescue effort.

In the south of Mexico City, at a flattened school where 19 children died, white wreaths were placed, testimony to the mourning of relatives and neighbors.

Families were starting to hold funerals. One of the first was that of Gabriel Morales and Agueda Mendoza, a married couple found locked in embrace under the rubble along with their dog Quino.

“I remember them as such a united, loving couple,” said Juan Carlos Williams, their nephew.

AFP





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