21 children dead, dozens missing after quake collapses school in Mexico City

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Updated Sept. 20, 2017 at 9:37 PM
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Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Rescue teams frantically sifted through debris of a flattened schoolhouse in Mexico City Wednesday, in a race to find dozens of children who remain unaccounted for, just hours after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit.

At least 21 children and four adults have been reported dead after the Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary school collapsed from the quake. But Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said there could be 30 more people, mostly children, trapped under the debris.

But there is still hope lives will be saved. Wednesday night, El Universal reported that five people were found alive in the rubble. The night before, eleven people were saved.

A young boy who was attending the school described the moments when the earthquake hit to NBC News.

"I was in my English class and the ground started to vibrate. I said it was shaking because no alarm went off. I said it was shaking and we all went down quickly," he said. " And that's when I made the nest decision of my life, which was not to go to the left, which is where where everything fell first. I went to the right with my friends and we were going down the stairs.

The powerful quake struck Tuesday afternoon in Chiautla de Tapia, a small town in Puebla state 80 miles south of Mexico City, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A volunteer rescue worker, Pedro Searrano, said sounds could be heard from the building as he and other rescuers worked. It was unknown if they were cries from those trapped or sounds of rubble shifting.

Officials said the death toll was raised to 225 on Wednesday afternoon -- at least 94 in Mexico City alone. Twelve were found dead in the state of Mexico, 732 died in Moralos, 43 in Puebla, four in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca. In the autonomous district comprising Mexico City, officials said at least 800 people were injured.

At least 44 buildings in Mexico City were destroyed.

Mexico is still recovering from an 8.1-magnitude earthquake less than two weeks ago -- but while Tuesday's earthquake was less severe, it occurred in a more densely populated area of Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has clashed with Pena Nieto over border issues, said in a Twitter message, "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state would "offer any support to aid Mexico," and a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that "the United Nations stands ready to assist."

Incidentally, the quake happened just hours after an annual earthquake drill in the Mexican capital -- which was implemented after a devastating 8.0 quake hit Mexico City on the exact same day, Sept. 19, in 1985. It killed more than 6,000 people.

Mexico was also hit by Hurricane Katia earlier this month, and the Popocateptl volcano, southeast of Mexico City, vented a large cloud of ash on Tuesday.

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