A strong earthquake has struck Mexico City and surrounding states, killing scores and leaving many trapped under collapsed buildings. This happened shortly after many people had taken part in an earthquake drill, exactly 32 years after a quake killed thousands in Mexico City.
Official reports suggest that least 216 people died in Mexico City, the country’s capital and in the states of Puebla, Mexico and Morelos. Authorities had previously said that 248 people were dead but that toll was later revised.
The magnitude 7.1 quake which is the deadliest to hit the nation since 1985, struck shortly after 1 pm local time, causing violent, prolonged shaking which flattened buildings and sent masonry tumbling onto streets, crushing cars and people in the capital Mexico City and surrounding areas.
President Enrique Peña Nieto visited the site earlier in the evening and was besieged by desperate parents, telling him that their children were missing. He said 22 bodies were found in the debris of an elementary school in Mexico City that collapsed due to the earthquake, with at least 30 children still missing on Tuesday night.
The earthquake also appeared to have triggered an eruption of Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano. In Atzitzihuacan on the slopes of the volcano, a church collapsed during mass, killing 15 people, Puebla governor Jose Antonio Gali said.
As night fell across the region hit by the quake rescuers armed with cutting equipment and sniffer dogs scrambled to reach survivors pinned inside in ruins of offices and apartment blocks amid plumes of dust and wailing sirens. Power blackouts left much of the capital in darkness. Many people remained outdoors, fearful of aftershocks.
The overall death toll was expected to continue rising as emergency crews and improvised citizen brigades combed through the rubble. The country is prone to earthquakes and earlier this month an 8.1 magnitude tremor in the southern part of Mexico killed at least 90 people.