MEXICO CITY: Rescuers frantically searched through the rubble of collapsed schools, homes and apartment buildings early Wednesday after Mexico’s deadliest earthquake since 1985 killed at least 217 people.
The quake struck at about 2:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday and had a magnitude of 7.1, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Its epicenter was in the state of Puebla, about 80 miles southeast of Mexico City.
It came less than two weeks after a magnitude-8.1 quake hit the country and killed nearly 100.
Mexico’s National Civil Defense agency put the death toll at 248 early Wednesday, but later reduced the number to 217. The reasons for this discrepancy were not immediately clear.
Dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed sickeningly.
The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday night that 25 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage of a school in southern Mexico City, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete floor slabs. It was not clear whether the deaths were included in the overall toll reported by the federal civil defense agency.
In the Mexico City neighborhood of Roma, rescue workers cheered after finding a woman alive under rubble, according to the AP. They then quieted down to listen for calls from other survivors.
Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense said 3,400 soldiers were deployed.
Mancera, the mayor, said 50 to 60 people were rescued alive by emergency workers and others.
President Enrique Peña Nieto was on a flight to Oaxaca when the quake struck and said in a tweet that he was immediately returning to Mexico City to assess the situation.
He later issued a video message urging calm. “The priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people,” Peña Nieto added.
Donald Trump, who has clashed with Peña Nieto over his repeated calls for a border wall between their countries, sent his support in a tweet.
“God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you,” he wrote.