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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mexico earthquake: Death toll rises to at least 217 people, including school children found dead under rubble in their classrooms

The powerful earthquake that struck on Tuesday near the town of Raboso in Puebla, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City, has killed at least 217 people.

The quake toppled homes, schools, and apartment buildings. A volunteer worker said he and other rescuers managed to get into a collapsed classroom where they found all the people in the class dead. Dozens of children remain unaccounted for.

Rescue operations are still ongoing. Desperate searchers shouted "quiet" and listened for faint voices in the rubble where a Mexican school once stood, as rescuers used trained dogs and their bare hands to reach any survivors of Tuesday's magnitude-7.1 earthquake.

Volunteer rescue worker Pedro Serrano, 29, a doctor, told The Associated Press: "We dug holes, then crawled in on our bellies. We managed to get into a collapsed classroom. We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults — a woman and a man."

At least 25 bodies were recovered from Escuela Enrique Rebsamen – all but four of the victims were children. Serrano said he found all the people in a classroom dead, and heard "small noises" near the site, though it’s unclear which direction it was coming from. A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school's rubble. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.

The deadly earthquake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that left an estimated 10,000 people dead and left tens of thousands injured or homeless in Mexico. Residents in Mexico had conducted earthquake drills just hours earlier. The earthquake occurred just two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 tremor in the south of the country killed more than 90 people and caused buildings in Mexico City to sway for more than a minute. President Enrique Pena Nieto called that earthquake the biggest quake the country has seen in a century.

The federal government declared a state of disaster in Mexico City, freeing up emergency funds. President Nieto said he had ordered all hospitals to open their doors to the injured. Mexico City's mayor said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone, and that 50 to 60 people were rescued. Pictures fell from walls, objects were shaken off of flat surfaces and computer monitors toppled over. Some people dove for cover under desks. Damaged buildings in the capital included the Philippines Embassy, but staffers were unhurt. At least 70 people who were in the capital were hospitalized, authorities said.

World leaders have taken to Twitter to commiserate with Mexico over the disaster.

Trump wrote: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."

Barrack Obama wrote: "Thinking about our neighbors in Mexico and all our Mexican-American friends tonight. Cuidense mucho y un fuerte abrazo para todos."

Below is a video showing the extent of the damage caused by the quake.

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