Survivors are still being pulled from rubble in Mexico City as rescue operations stretch into a fourth day Friday, spurring hope among desperate relatives gathered at the sites of buildings collapsed by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake.
Mexico’s federal police said several people were lifted out of the debris of two buildings Thursday. Rescuers removed or broke through slabs until they found cracks that allowed workers to wiggle through to reach the victims, then lift them to safety. The city government said 60 people in all had been rescued since the quake hit at midday Tuesday.
Still, with the hours passing, fewer of the living were being found, and the official death toll rose to 286, with more than half, 148, in the capital. National Civil Defense chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted early Friday that there were also 73 deaths in the state of Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.
The time was nearing when rescuers would be replaced by bulldozers to clear rubble, but officials went to great pains to say it was still a rescue operation.
Puente acknowledged that backhoes and bulldozers were starting to clear away some wrecked buildings where no one had been detected or where teetering piles of rubble threatened to collapse on neighboring structures.
“It is false that we are demolishing structures where there could be survivors,” Puente said. “The rescue operations will continue, and they won’t stop.”
Those who witnessed the buildings collapse said the tragedy could have been much worse. Some buildings didn’t fall immediately, giving people time to escape, and some shattered but left airspaces where occupants survived.