TPM World News

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the new, magnitude 6.1 temblor was centered about 11 miles (18 kilometers) south-southeast of Matias Romero in the state of Oaxaca, which was the region most battered by a magnitude 8.1 quake on Sept. 7.

It swayed buildings and set off a seismic alarm in the capital, promping civil defense officials to temporarily suspend rescue operations in the rubble of buildings downed by Thursday’s magnitude 7.1 quake in central Mexico.

That quake dimmed activity in the stylish Condesa neighborhood, where young revelers typically spill out from dimly lit bars and restaurants on a Friday night. But the first weekend since a 7.1 magnitude earthquake toppled buildings just blocks away began on a somber note.

Instead of crowds gathered with beers, small handfuls of rescue workers still dressed in reflective vests took breaks from digging through rubble. Entire restaurants with white linen tables were empty. Metal gates shuttered others.

“It feels lifeless,” said Mariana Aguilar, 27, a hostess at a bar and restaurant who stood waiting for guests yet to arrive. “I walk through these streets every day and you never imagine something like this would happen.”

The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit by the quake that killed at least 295 people, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week.

“The city is still quite tense,” said Israel Escamilla, an engineer, as he sipped a plastic cup filled with Coke at an empty bar. “But as good Mexicans we have to keep lending support however we can.”

As rescue operations stretched into Day 5, residents throughout the city held out hope that dozens still missing might be found alive. More than half the dead —157 — perished in the capital, while another 73 died in the state of Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico State, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

Along a 60-foot stretch of a bike lane in Mexico City’s downtown, families huddled under tarps and donated blankets Friday, awaiting word of loved ones trapped in the four-story-high pile of rubble behind them.

“There are moments when you feel like you’re breaking down,” said Patricia Fernandez Romero, who was waiting for word on the fate of her 27-year-old son. “And there are moments when you’re a little calmer. … They are all moments that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Along the bike lane, where families slept in tents, accepting food and coffee from strangers, people have organized to present a united front to authorities, who they pressed ceaselessly for information.

They were told that water and food had been passed along to at least some of those trapped inside. On Friday morning, after hours of inactivity blamed on rain, rescuers were readying to re-enter the site, joined by teams from Japan and Israel. Fernandez said officials told them they knew where people were trapped on the fourth floor.

It’s the moments between those bits of information that torment the families.

“It’s that you get to a point when you’re so tense, when they don’t come out to give us information,” she said. “It’s so infuriating.”

Jose Gutierrez, a civil engineer attached to the rescue who has a relative trapped in the wreckage, gathered other families of the missing to let them know what was going on.
“My family is in there. I want them to get out,” Gutierrez said, his voice breaking. “So … we go onward.”

A roller coaster of emotions played out on Friday for Roberta Villegas Miguel, who was awaiting word of her 37-year-old son, Paulino Estrada Villegas, an accountant who worked on the fourth floor and is married with two young daughters.

Wrapped in a fuzzy turquoise blanket against the morning chill she said that her daughter-in-law was contacted by a friend who said she had received a call from a cell number that belonged to her son, but there was no conversation. Her daughter-in-law ran to authorities with the information, but hours later returned to say that it was her husband’s old cell number. At first they held out hope that he had given his old phone’s SIM card to a co-worker who was using it to call out of the building. But eventually authorities traced the call to Queretaro state, extinguishing that glimmer of hope.

The arrival of rain late Thursday and the resulting work suspension drove Villegas’ optimism down. But Friday morning the arrival of the Japanese rescuers buoyed her once again.

“We want to be hopeful,” Villegas said. “We don’t want to lose faith.”

Meanwhile, the time was nearing for bulldozers to be brought in to clear rubble and replace the delicate work of rescuers, though officials went to great pains to say it was still a rescue operation.

National Civil Defense chief Luis Felipe Puente acknowledged that backhoes and bulldozers were starting to clear away some wrecked buildings where no life has 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.”

The long week’s torment weighing heavy on rescuers and residents alike, several of those gathered Friday night in Condesa said memories of the quake and worries for neighbors and victims were hard to escape.

Dionicio Pelaez, 57, the owner of a bike shop who has been helping collect donations, played pool with a dozen other men at a mostly empty restaurant. He said many of his neighbors lost their apartments.

“We came to distract ourselves a bit,” he said, his voice shaking. “This place is always full Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Now it’s empty.”

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PARIS (AP) — French far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon rallied disaffected voters Saturday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to weaken worker protections, amid spreading discontent with Macron’s vision of a more business-friendly economy.

Thousands gathered at the iconic Place de la Bastille for a march through eastern Paris, including Melenchon supporters, environmental activists, anti-capitalism campaigners and others just seeking an outlet for their frustration with France’s new, young president. Melenchon’s Defiant France party said it bused in protesters from more than 150 French towns.

A huge balloon on top of a truck read “Macron, Resign!”

The protesters’ anger is centered on labor decrees that Macron signed Friday reducing French unions’ influence over workplace rules and making it easier for companies to fire workers. Macron says the change is needed so France can compete in the global economy. Opponents say he is dismantling the French lifestyle.

Melenchon, seeking to position himself as France’s leading opposition figure after a strong fourth-place showing in this year’s presidential election, wants the labor law decrees withdrawn.

The protesters are also angry at what Melenchon calls the “authoritarian” way Macron imposed the reforms. He used a special procedure allowing the government to change labor law by executive order instead going through a lengthy debate to pass a bill in parliament.

Macron said during the signing ceremony Friday that the first labor measures will start being applied next week, and all will be implemented by the end of the year.
Among the most contested reforms is one that caps the financial penalties awarded by courts for wrongful dismissals. Another eases regulations governing when and why companies can dismiss workers.

Macron lauded the “unprecedented wave of changes” to France’s social model, along with changes to unemployment benefits and a training plan for jobless people that will be set up next year.

While Macron shone at the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week and has made a strong mark on the international stage, he has struggled with myriad critics at home.

Farmers, riot police and carnival workers have also held protests in recent weeks over work policy changes under Macron, and truckers plan road blockades on Monday.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — 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 273 in Mexico City and several nearby states, with 137 of those in the capital.

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.

The federal civil defense director, Luis Felipe 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.

In other cases, the salvation seemed almost miraculous.

Security guard Felix Giral Barron said that after the quake started, he had time to run and tell people to evacuate his building. Then an entire apartment building across the street crumbled and a big tank of heating gas on its slid off, but didn’t explode.

“The 550-pound (250-kilogram) gas tank got caught by the trees on the street, and that prevented it from exploding,” he said.

What was not miraculous was the disappearance of one of the most dearly held hopes, the belief that a small girl trapped in a collapsed school had been contacted by rescuers.

Since early Wednesday, the nation’s attention had been glued to the search for her in the rubble of the school in southern Mexico City. Rescuers told reporters that a girl, identified only as Frida Sofia, had signaled she was alive deep in the rubble by wiggling her fingers. Rescuers said they even spoke with her.

The child became a symbol of hope, but no family members came forward to identify the girl, and officials said no girl by that name was registered at the school.

On Thursday afternoon, navy Assistant Secretary Enrique Sarmiento announced that while there were blood traces and other signs suggesting someone could be alive beneath the school, all its children had 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 said.

He said 11 children had been rescued and 19 had died, along with six adults, including a school employee whose body was recovered just before dawn Thursday.

“We want to emphasize that we have no knowledge about the report that emerged with the name of a girl,” Sarmiento added. “We do not believe — we are sure — it was not a reality.”

In fact, he said, the only trace rescuers had were images from a camera lowered into the rubble that showed blood tracks where an injured person apparently dragged himself or herself.

Sarmiento said the only person still listed as missing was a school employee. But it was just blood tracks — no fingers wiggling, no voice, no name. Several dead people have been removed from the rubble, and it could have been their fingers rescuers thought they saw move.

Sarmiento later apologized for being so categorical, saying if anyone was still trapped could be a child or an adult.

“The information existing at this moment doesn’t allow us to say if it is an adult or a child,” Sarmiento said. “As long as there is the slightest possibility of someone alive, we will continue search with the same energy.”

Alfredo Padilla, a volunteer rescuer at the school, played down the importance of the revelation that there was no trapped child.

“It was a confusion,” Padilla said. “The important thing is there are signs of life and we are working on that.”

And hope burned on.

Outside a collapsed office building in the trendy Roma Norte district, a list of those rescued was strung between two trees. Relatives of the missing compared it against their own list of those who were in the building when the quake struck — more than two dozen names — kept in a spiral notebook.

Maria del Carmen Fernandez’s 27-year-old nephew, Ivan Colin Fernandez, worked as an accountant in the seven-story building, which pancaked to the ground, taking part of the building next door with it.

She said the last time the family got an update was late Wednesday, when officials said about 14 people were believed to be alive inside. Three people have been rescued from the building since the quake.

“They should keep us informed, because I think what kills us most is the desperation of not knowing anything,” Fernandez said as her sister, the missing man’s mother, wept into her black fleece sweater.

Referring to rumors that authorities intended to bring in heavy machinery that could risk bringing buildings down on anyone still alive inside, Fernandez said: “That seems unjust to us because there are still people alive inside and that’s not OK.”

“I think they should wait until they take the last one out,” she said.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — 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 Assistant Secretary Angel Enrique Sarmiento 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 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 Rebsamen 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.”

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the number of confirmed dead in the capital had risen from 100 to 115, bringing the overall toll from the quake to 245. He also said two women and a man had been pulled alive from a collapsed office building in the city’s center Wednesday night, almost 36 hours after the quake.

Still, frustration was growing as the rescue effort stretched into Day 3.

Outside a collapsed seven-story office building in the trendy Roma Norte district, a list of those rescued was strung between two trees. Relatives of the missing compared it against their own list of those who were in the building when the quake struck — more than two dozen names — kept in a spiral notebook.

Patricia Fernandez’s 27-year-old nephew, Ivan Colin Fernandez, worked as an accountant in the seven-story building, which pancaked to the ground, taking part of the building next door with it.

She said the last time the family got an update was late yesterday: That about 14 people were believed to be alive inside, and only three had gotten out.

“They should keep us informed,” Fernandez said as her sister, the man’s mother, wept into Fernandez’s black fleece sweater. “Because I think what kills us most is the desperation of not knowing anything.”

Referring to rumors that authorities intend to bring in heavy machinery that could risk bringing buildings down on anyone still alive inside, Fernandez said: “That seems unjust to us because there are still people alive inside and that’s not OK.”

“I think they should wait until they take the last one out,” she said.

Seeking to dispel the rumors, National Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted Thursday that heavy machinery “is NOT being used” in search-and-rescue efforts.

President Enrique Pena Nieto declared three days of mourning as soldiers, police, firefighters and everyday citizens dug through the rubble, at times with their hands, gaining an inch at a time.

“There are still people groaning. There are three more floors to remove rubble from. And you still hear people in there,” said Evodio Dario Marcelino, a volunteer who was working with dozens of others at a collapsed apartment building.

A man was pulled alive from a partly collapsed apartment building in northern Mexico City more than 24 hours after the Tuesday quake and taken away in a stretcher, apparently conscious

In all, 52 people had been rescued alive since the quake, the city’s Social Development Department said, adding in a tweet: “We won’t stop.” It was a race against time, Pena Nieto warned in a tweet of his own saying that “every minute counts to save lives.”

People have rallied to help their neighbors in a huge volunteer effort that includes people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers stood alongside construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.

At a collapsed factory building closer to the city’s center, giant cranes lifted huge slabs of concrete from the towering pile of rubble, like peeling layers from an onion. Workers with hand tools would quickly move in to look for signs of survivors and begin attacking the next layer.

In addition to those killed in Mexico City, the federal civil defense agency said 69 died in Morelos state just south of the capital and 43 in Puebla state to the southeast, where the quake was centered. The rest of the deaths were in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City on three sides, Guerrero and Oaxaca states.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — A delicate effort to reach a young girl buried in the ruins of her school stretched into a new day on Thursday, a vigil broadcast across the nation as rescue workers struggled to pick away unstable debris and reach her.

The sight of her wiggling fingers early Wednesday became a symbol for the hope that drove thousands of professionals and volunteers to work frantically at dozens of wrecked buildings across the capital and nearby states looking for survivors of the magnitude 7.1 quake that killed at least 245 people in central Mexico and injured over 2,000.

Mexico’s navy announced early Thursday it had recovered the body of a school worker from the Enrique Rebsamen school, but still had not been able to rescue the trapped child.

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.

“We are just meters (yards) away from getting to the children, but we can’t access it until it is shored up,” said Vladimir Navarro, a university employee who was exhausted after working all night. “With the shaking there has been, it is very unstable and taking any decision is dangerous.”

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the number of confirmed dead in the capital had risen from 100 to 115, bringing the overall toll from the quake to 245. He also said two women and a man had been pulled alive from a collapsed office building in the city’s center Wednesday night, almost 36 hours after the quake.

Still, frustration was growing as the rescue effort stretched into Day 3.

Outside a collapsed seven-story office building in the trendy Roma Norte district, a list of those rescued was strung between two trees. Relatives of the missing compared it against their own list of those who were in the building when the quake struck — more than two dozen names — kept in a spiral notebook.

Patricia Fernandez’s 27-year-old nephew, Ivan Colin Fernandez, worked as an accountant in the seven-story building, which pancaked to the ground, taking part of the building next door with it.

She said the last time the family got an update was late yesterday: That about 14 people were believed to be alive inside, and only three had gotten out.

“They should keep us informed,” Fernandez said as her sister, the man’s mother, wept into Fernandez’s black fleece sweater. “Because I think what kills us most is the desperation of not knowing anything.”

Referring to rumors that authorities intend to bring in heavy machinery that could risk bringing buildings down on anyone still alive inside, Fernandez said: “That seems unjust to us because there are still people alive inside and that’s not OK.”

“I think they should wait until they take the last one out,” she said.

Seeking to dispel the rumors, National Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted Thursday that heavy machinery “is NOT being used” in search-and-rescue efforts.

President Enrique Pena Nieto declared three days of mourning as soldiers, police, firefighters and everyday citizens dug through the rubble, at times with their hands, gaining an inch at a time.

“There are still people groaning. There are three more floors to remove rubble from. And you still hear people in there,” said Evodio Dario Marcelino, a volunteer who was working with dozens of others at a collapsed apartment building.

A man was pulled alive from a partly collapsed apartment building in northern Mexico City more than 24 hours after the Tuesday quake and taken away in a stretcher, apparently conscious

In all, 52 people had been rescued alive since the quake, the city’s Social Development Department said, adding in a tweet: “We won’t stop.” It was a race against time, Pena Nieto warned in a tweet of his own saying that “every minute counts to save lives.”

But the country’s attention focused on the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school on the city’s south side, where 21 children and five adults have now been confirmed dead.

Hopes rose Wednesday when workers told local media they had detected signs that a girl was alive and she was speaking to them through a hole dug in the rubble. Thermal imaging suggested several more people might be in the air space around her.

A volunteer rescue worker, Hector Mendez, said cameras lowered into the rubble suggested there might be four people still inside, but he added that it wasn’t clear if anyone besides the girl was alive.

Dr. Alfredo Vega, who was working with the rescue team, said that a girl, whom he identified only as Frida Sofia, had been located alive under the pancaked floor slabs.

“She is alive, and she is telling us that there are five more children alive” in the same space, Vega said.

But authorities said the identity of the girl was unclear because no relatives had come forward with information.

The debris removed from the school changed as crews worked their way deeper, from huge chunks of brick and concrete to pieces of wood that looked like remnants of desks and paneling to a load that contained a half dozen sparkly hula-hoops.

Rescuers carried in lengths of wide steel pipe big enough for someone to crawl through, apparently trying to create a tunnel into the collapsed slabs of the three-story school building. But a heavy rain fell during the night, and the tottering pile of rubble had to be shored up with hundreds of wooden beams.

People have rallied to help their neighbors in a huge volunteer effort that includes people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers stood alongside construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.

At a collapsed factory building closer to the city’s center, giant cranes lifted huge slabs of concrete from the towering pile of rubble, like peeling layers from an onion. Workers with hand tools would quickly move in to look for signs of survivors and begin attacking the next layer.

In addition to those killed in Mexico City, the federal civil defense agency said 69 died in Morelos state just south of the capital and 43 in Puebla state to the southeast, where the quake was centered. The rest of the deaths were in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City on three sides, Guerrero and Oaxaca states.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — On rubber mats spread across a Mexico City recreation center, the Montero family cuddles under donated wool blankets, their first new possessions after abandoning their apartment following the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

Across the capital thousands of Mexicans are now believed homeless after the tremor leveled entire buildings and left others teetering on the edge of collapse. Men, women and children are now filling up gyms and event halls at more than two dozen designated shelters. Many are uncertain where they will go next, but grateful to have a safe refuge.

“I am sure nothing is going to fall here,” 7-year-old Oscar Montero says.

The Montero family lived on the first floor of a seven-story apartment building that on Tuesday became perilously sandwiched between neighboring towers on each side that have begun caving in. No one in the family of five was home during the quake. Oscar and his two older siblings were all at school, his parents at work.

Claudia Antonio, Oscar’s mother, entered the home quickly the quake after to salvage her children’s birth certificates and vaccination records. Other neighbors pulled out valuables like fridges and microwaves. In the first night after the tremor, some slept outside with the items they had pulled from the wobbly buildings.

The Montero family decided they would go to the Junior Club recreation center.

“Material things come and go,” Antonio, 38, said. “What I value most is our lives.”

The Junior Club is typically a place where children come to swim in the lap pool and adults spin on gym bikes. In the days since the quake it has become one of countless makeshift “homes of refuge,” receiving piles of donated bottled water, baby diapers and toys.

On a second floor dozens of the newly displaced camp out on sleeping mats and share their stories. Teams of volunteer workers visit with each family to determine their needs.

Aside from material needs, Dr. Alfredo Reyes, who was helping out nearby at the site of a flattened six-story building, said many of the survivors are likely to struggle emotionally. A nervous fear lingers in residents, sparked by any sign that buildings which once seemed unmovable might now collapse at the slightest provocation.

At one plaza where rescue workers gathered to organize supplies Tuesday night, panic spread swiftly after people shouted that they’d seen a damaged building start to sway.

“I’m scared!” a young woman cried, her voice trembling

“They’ve lost loved ones, their homes,” Reyes said, adding that the quake also bring up old traumas from prior quakes, like the one that hit Mexico City on the same day in 1985 and left thousands dead.

Oscar Montero, a boy with deep brown eyes whose playful energy sends him bouncing through the halls of the shelter, said the initial tremor didn’t scare him. He comforted the frightened children at his school.

But he is afraid to go home.

“What if there’s a quake again and things break?” he asks. “Here it won’t.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The soft soil that lines the ancient lake bed that Mexico City is built on amplified the shaking from Tuesday’s earthquake and increased its destructive force, seismologists say as they try to better understand the quake that has killed more than 200 people.

Scientists are looking at other quirks of the magnitude 7.1 earthquake, including the absence of aftershocks and if it is somehow related to a distant, even stronger, Mexican temblor that struck a dozen days earlier.

LIKE JELLY

Mexico City is built on deep, soft soil that was once the bottom of a lake. Instead of cushioning the city from earthquakes, it exaggerates their effects, said James Jackson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Cambridge in England.

The vibrations, or seismic waves, from the hard rocks below are amplified by the soil and sediments above, making the surface — and the structures built on the surface — shake longer and more intensely.

“It’s like being built on jelly on top of something that is wobbling,” Jackson said.

The soft sediments were the major cause of damage in Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake, according to Cornell University geophysicist Geoffrey Abers.

OTHER SOFT SPOTS

The same deep soft soil effect worsened the deadly 2015 Nepal earthquake because Katmandu is also built on a dry lake bed, Jackson said.

While the geology is not quite the same, Los Angeles, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area have soft soil that can amplify seismic waves, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Oliver Boyd. New Zealand has been affected by similar issues in past quakes, he said.

WHRE ARE THE AFTERSHOCKS?

Scientists have been unable to detect any aftershocks as of Wednesday afternoon, said USGS seismologist Paul Earle. Usually an area can expect an aftershock one magnitude lower, which would be in the 6.1 range, he said — even though Tuesday’s quake was a type that is usually accompanied by fewer aftershocks.

Unlike most earthquakes, it did not happen where two tectonic plates meet. Instead, Tuesday’s quake happened in the middle of the Cocos plate, the result of pressure built up as it slips under the North American plate.

This so-called “slab fault” quake usually has fewer aftershocks, like the relative quiet after a 2001 earthquake in Seattle. Tuesday’s quake was deeper than normal at 51 kilometers (32 miles) below the surface, and deeper quakes are also associated with fewer aftershocks.

TWO IN TWELVE DAYS

Tuesday’s earthquake was the second in just 12 days in Mexico. The first was a magnitude 8.1 quake that struck southern Mexico and killed at least 90 people.

Geologists say the second quake was not an aftershock because it was too far away — about 650 kilometers (400 miles) — from the first. Most aftershocks are within 100 kilometers (62 miles), Earle said.

It was also not a release of stress generated by the far-off quake, Earle said.

Still, he said, seismologists will probe further to see if there might be some kind of link between the two — or not.

“Earthquakes are random,” Earle said. “Sometimes they happen spaced out in time. Sometimes they happen at the same time.”

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years tore off roofs and doors, unleashed heavy flooding and brought down cell towers and power lines Wednesday in an onslaught that could deepen the island’s financial crisis.

Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph (250 kph), and was expected to punish the U.S. territory with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours.

It was the second time in two weeks that Puerto Rico felt the wrath of a hurricane.

As people waited it out in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria slowly crossed the island, knocking down communication towers, snapping trees and unloading at least 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.

Widespread flooding was reported across the island, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighborhoods and many streets turned into rivers. People calling local radio stations reported that doors were being torn off their hinges and a water tank flew away.

About 90 percent of customers were without power.

The storm threatened to ravage the island’s already crumbling electrical grid and worsen its economic woes.

Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure a portion of its $73 billion debt, and the government has warned it is running out of money as it fights back against furloughs and other austerity measures imposed by a federal board overseeing the island’s finances.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged people to have faith: “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.”

He later asked President Donald Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, a step that would open the way to federal aid.

More than 11,000 people — and more than 580 pets — were in shelters, authorities said.

Felix Delgado, mayor of the city of Catano on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, told WAPA Television that 80 percent of the homes in a neighborhood known as Juana Matos were destroyed.

El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported that 80 percent of homes in a small fishing community near San Juan were damaged, and that an emergency medical station in the coastal town of Arecibo lost its roof, while communication was severed with several emergency management posts. A hospital and a police station reported broken windows, and a tree fell on an ambulance.

Those who sought shelter at a coliseum in San Juan were moved to the building’s second and third floors, radio station WKAQ-AM reported.

Many feared extended power outages would further sink businesses struggling amid a recession that has lasted more than a decade.

“This is going to be a disaster,” said Jean Robert Auguste, who owns two French restaurants and sought shelter at a San Juan hotel. “We haven’t made any money this month.”

The heavy winds and rain and the noise of things crashing outside woke many across Puerto Rico before daybreak. At one recently built hotel in San Juan, water dripped through the ceiling of a sixth-floor room and seeped through the window.

“I didn’t sleep at all,” said Merike Mai, a vacationing 35-year-old flight attendant from Estonia.

As of late morning, the storm was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of San Juan with Category 4 winds of 140 mph (220 kph). It was moving to the northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

Previously a Category 5 with 175 mph (281 kph) winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on a key measurement that meteorologists use: air pressure. The lower the central pressure, the stronger a storm.

Maria’s pressure was 917 millibars, lower than Hurricane Irma’s 929 millibars when it roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.

Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, causing no deaths or widespread damage on the island but leaving more than 1 million people without electricity. More than 70,000 still had no power as Maria approached.

Hurricanes tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane to blow ashore in Puerto Rico was in 1932, and the strongest ever to hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 160 mph (250 kph).

As Maria closed in, Trump offered his support via Twitter: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you – will be there to help!”

The storm’s center passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp to warn people to remain alert. St. Croix was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands.

“For folks in their homes, I really recommend that you not be in any kind of sleepwear,” Mapp said. “Make sure you have your shoes on. Make sure you have a jacket around.” He added: “I don’t really recommend you be sleeping from 11 o’clock to 4.”

Maria killed two people in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, officials said.

The storm also slammed the island of Dominica late Monday. Hartley Henry, an adviser to the prime minister, reported at least seven deaths and a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings.” He said the country was “in a daze,” with no electricity and little to no communications.

“The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in New York.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — The three-story school structure had pancaked into a pile of concrete slabs. The bodies of 21 children and four adults had been pulled out. But still sounds came from the collapsed structure on Wednesday — and finally a survivor was located.

Rescuers were struggling to free a girl who had been one of many trapped under the rubble of a Mexico City school that collapsed due to yesterday’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

Images broadcast by Mexican media showed helmeted workers working at the debris at the Enrique Rebsamen school.

Foro TV reported that rescuers spotted the child and shouted to her to move her hand if she could hear them, and she did. A search dog subsequently entered the wreckage and confirmed she was alive. Several other children were rescued shortly after the quake.

It was a ray of hope after a grim night, as rescuers dug at the pile of rubble and soldiers wedged in wooden beams to try to prevent it from crumbling further.

Then a group of them decided to head in.

Pedro Serrano, a 29-year-old doctor, was one of the ordinary Mexicans who had volunteered to join the rescue effort. He crawled into a crevice amid the tottering pile.

“We dug holes, then crawled in on our bellies,” Serrano said.

With barely room to move, he wriggled deeper into the wrecked school.

“We managed to get into a collapsed classroom. We saw some chairs and wooden tables,” Serrano said. “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.”

None of them was alive.

The rescuers left them there. There was no way to get them out.

Outside the school gates, rumors ran through the crowd of anxious parents that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside. Nobody could say for sure whether it was true.

Asked if there was hope, Serrano looked weary but said workers were still trying.

“We can hear small noises,” he said. “We don’t know if they’re coming from above or below — from the walls above (crumbling), or from someone below calling for help.”

The work continued through the night, as pickup trucks loaded with volunteer rescuers with shovels and pickaxes sped through the darkened streets of the capital.

Occasionally, searchers at the school would ask for silence so they could listen for signs of life.

The volunteers stopped passing wooden shoring beams and buckets of rubble and became quiet.

Silently, they held their fists in the air in a gesture of hope, solidarity and resilience.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Police, firefighters and ordinary Mexicans dug frantically through the rubble of collapsed schools, homes and apartment buildings Wednesday, looking for survivors of Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades as the number of confirmed fatalities stood at 225.

Adding poignancy and a touch of the surreal, Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours earlier, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date.

One of the most desperate rescue efforts was at a primary and secondary school in southern Mexico City, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets.

Volunteer rescue worker Dr. Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the tottering pile of rubble that had been Escuela Enrique Rebsamen. He made it into a classroom, but found all of its occupants dead.

“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,” he said.

“We can hear small noises, but we don’t know if they’re coming from above or below, from the walls above (crumbling), or someone below calling for help.”

A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school’s ruins. 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.

Rescuers brought in wooden beams to shore up the fallen concrete slabs so they wouldn’t collapse further and crush whatever airspaces remained.

The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether those deaths were included in the overall death toll of 225 reported by the federal civil defense agency. Pena Nieto had earlier reported 22 bodies found and said 30 children and eight adults were reported missing.

In a video message released late Tuesday, Pena Nieto urged people to be calm and said authorities were moving to provide help as 40 percent of Mexico City and 60 percent of nearby Morelos state were without power. But, he said, “the priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people.”

People across central Mexico already had rallied to help their neighbors as dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of broken concrete. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets.

The huge volunteer effort included people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers lined up alongside with construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.

Even Mexico City’s normally raucous motorcycle clubs swung into action, using motorcades to open lanes for emergency vehicles on avenues crammed with cars largely immobilized by street closures and malfunctioning stoplights.

Dust-covered and exhausted from digging, 30-year-old Carlos Mendoza said two people were pulled alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building in the Roma Sur neighborhood during a three-hour period.

“When we saw this, we came to help,” he said, gesturing at the destruction. “This is ugly, very ugly.”

Blocks away, Alma Gonzalez was in her fourth-floor apartment when the quake collapsed the ground floor of her building, leaving her no way out. She was terrified until her neighbors mounted a ladder on their roof and helped her slide out a side window.

The official Twitter feed of civil defense agency head Luis Felipe Puente said 94 dead had been counted in Mexico City and 71 in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital. It said 43 were known dead in Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which borders Mexico City on three sides, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca.

At the site of a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City, rescuers worked atop a three-story pile of rubble, forming a human chain that passed pieces of rubble across four city blocks to a site where they were dumped.

Throughout the day, rescuers pulled dust-covered people, some barely conscious, some seriously injured, from about three dozen collapsed buildings. At one site, shopping carts commandeered from a nearby supermarket were used to carry water to the rescue site and take rubble away.

As night fell, huge flood lights lit up the recovery sites, but workers and volunteers begged for headlamps.

Where a six-story office building collapsed in Mexico City, sisters Cristina and Victoria Lopez Torres formed part of a human chain passing bottled water.

“I think it’s human nature that drives everyone to come and help others,” Cristina Lopez said.

“We are young. We didn’t live through’85. But we know that it’s important to come out into the streets to help,” said her sister Victoria.

Ricardo Ibarra, 48, did live through the 1985 quake and said there hadn’t been anything like it since.

Wearing a bright orange vest and carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to it, he said he and his friends just wanted to help.

“People are very sensitive because today was the 32nd anniversary of a tragedy,” he said.

Buildings also collapsed in Morelos state, including the town hall and local church in Jojutla near the quake’s epicenter. A dozen people died in Jojutla.

The town’s Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill held in the morning came in handy.

“I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the quake came, she said, children and teachers rapidly filed out and nobody was hurt.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake hit at 1:14 p.m. (2:14 p.m. EDT) and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City.

Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.

The quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit Sept. 7 off Mexico’s southern coast and also was felt strongly in the capital.

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted the epicenters of the two quakes were 400 miles (650 kilometers) apart and said most aftershocks are within (60 miles) 100 kilometers.

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