MEXICO CITY – A high-ranking navy official said Thursday there is no missing child at a collapsed Mexico City school that had become a focus of rescue efforts following this week’s deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, though an adult still may be alive in the rubble.
Navy (Semar) Under Secretary Ángel Enrique Sarmiento Beltrán said that while there are blood traces and other signs suggesting that someone is alive, all the school’s children have been accounted for.
“We have done an accounting with school officials and we are certain that all the children either died, unfortunately, are in hospitals or are safe at their homes,” Sarmiento Beltrán said.
The attention of many in Mexico and abroad had been drawn to the plight of a girl identified only as Frida Sofia, who was said to have been located alive under the pancaked school building and became a symbol for the hopes of thousands of rescuers working around the clock in search of quake survivors.
Multiple rescuers at the school site spoke of the girl, with some saying she had reported five more children alive in the same space. Yet no family members had emerged while rescue efforts continued, and some officials had begun to say her identity was not clear.
Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake killed at least 245 people in central Mexico and injured over 2,000. That included at least 21 children and five adults at the Enrique Rébsamen school in southern Mexico City.
Earlier Thursday, the navy announced it had recovered the body of a school worker from the school.
Rescuers removed dirt and debris bucketful by bucketful and passed a scanner over the rubble of the school every hour or so to search for heat signatures that could indicate trapped survivors. Shortly before dawn the pile of debris shuddered ominously, prompting those working atop it to evacuate.
“With the shaking there has been, it is very unstable and taking any decision is dangerous,” said Vladimir Navarro, a university employee who was exhausted after working all night.”