A sea of rescuers in hard hats and masks continue to descend upon the streets of Mexico City in search of survivors after a deadly earthquake struck the region.
“The priority now is continue rescuing those who are still trapped and provide medical attention to the injured,” said President Enrique Peña Nieto in a video statement early Wednesday.
Dozens of buildings in central Mexico turned into plumes of dust and debris killing at least 216 people in Mexico City — one of the busiest cities in the world — and the surrounding states of Puebla, Mexico and Morelos when a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday, officials said.
One of those buildings was the Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City’s Coapa district, where 22 bodies have been recovered.
“Unfortunately many people have lost their lives, including girls and boys in schools, buildings and houses. I want to express my condolences to those who lost a family member or a loved one. Mexico shares your grief,” Peña Nieto said.
Photos of missing students circulated social media while dozens of parents waited outside the school hoping to find them. The family of 7-year-old Jose Eduardo Huerta Rodriguez looked for hours through handwritten lists with names of those who had been rescued and visited the city’s hospitals.
But around 10 p.m. (local time), a family member who had stayed outside the school called Jose’s mother.
“He was still inside the school, and he was dead when they rescued him,” his aunt Paola Rodriguez told CNN.
About a mile away, four people were killed and 40 injured at The Monterrey Institute of Technology campus in Mexico City, the school said.
The earthquake has left a devastating impact in the region. An unaccounted number of people are staying at shelters around the city after losing their homes. Schools have closed indefinitely and millions remain without power.
Peña Nieto has asked people to stay indoors and stay away from the streets while the rescue attempts continue.
‘We all need to come together’
In the upscale neighborhood of Roma, one of the hardest hit areas in the city, Violeta Gaytan, was among many who fled the area on Tuesday to get away from damaged buildings and a strong smell of gas.
“There was a lot of people screaming, children everywhere. I saw people calling out for doctors and a lot of dust,” the publicist in Mexico City said.
Like others in the city, Gaytan began to walk home. She expected it would take her hours but a man was driving around offering people rides to metro stations across the city.
A couple of hours before Tuesday’s earthquake, authorities held a city-wide drill in the anniversary of an earthquake that killed an estimated 9,500 people in and around Mexico City in 1985, one the country’s worst natural disasters in recent memory.
“This is one of those moments where we all need to come together,” said Dorothy Munoz after she grabbed her dogs and raced to the street after her apartment was shaken by the earthquake.
Less than two weeks ago, a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck off the southern coast of the country, killing at least 90, according to the governor of the state of Oaxaca.