Rescuers searched for survivors through the night after a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Tuesday, killing scores and leaving many trapped under collapsed buildings.
At least 216 people died in Mexico City — the country’s capital — and in the states of Puebla, Mexico and Morelos, officials said. Previously, authorities had said that as many as 248 people had died. The death toll was later revised.
President Enrique Peña Nieto said 22 bodies were found in the debris of an elementary school in Mexico City that was reduced to rubble due to the earthquake. At least 30 children were still missing Tuesday night, he said.
The destruction revived horrific memories in Mexico on the anniversary of another massive quake in 1985, the disaster-prone country’s deadliest ever.
“Unfortunately, many people have lost their lives, including children, in schools, buildings and homes,” Nieto said in a national address.
As many as 4.6 million homes, businesses and other facilities had lost electricity, according to national power company Comisión Federal de Electricidad. Most of them were in the greater Mexico City area and in the states of Guerrero, Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Tlaxcala.
Well after nightfall, rescue crews and volunteers in Mexico City — home to 20 million people — were still clawing through the rubble of dozens of collapsed buildings looking for survivors and bodies.
Local media reported that families were getting WhatsApp messages pleading for help from desperate relatives trapped under debris. It all showed images of desperate locals forming human chains in search of people still trapped in collapsed buildings after nightfall. With power out in much of the city, the work was carried out in the dark or with flashlights and generators.
Memories of the devastating 1985 earthquake, which killed at least 10,000 people, surged to the surface on what was meant to be a low-key 32nd anniversary.
Adding to the national sense of vulnerability, the quake also came just 12 days after another temblor that killed nearly 100 people and left more than 200 injured, mainly in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Many in the capital ran outdoors when walls around them swayed and cracked.
“I’m so worried. I can’t stop crying. It’s the same nightmare as in 1985,” Georgina Sanchez, 52, sobbed to AFP in a plaza in the capital.
The quake — which occurred in the early afternoon, hours after city authorities had conducted an earthquake drill — caused massive damage in the bustling center of the city.
“It was horrible,” said resident Leiza Visaj Herrera, 27. “I had to hold on to the ground.”
Scenes of chaos erupted in the quake’s aftermath. Traffic jammed to a standstill before blanked-out stop lights, and anxious people ran between vehicles as ambulances tried to make headway, sirens blaring.
In several locations, large crowds of people clambered on buildings that were now piles of stone and tangled metal, trying to pull people out.
Emergency workers held up signs commanding “Silence” so crews could listen for the sounds of any survivors.
Officials in several other countries responded to the quake with offers of help.
Honduras sent a 36-strong rescue team.
US President Donald Trump, who has forged an antagonistic relationship with Mexico, tweeted: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “Devastating news from Mexico City. My thoughts are with those affected by today’s earthquake — Canada will be ready to help our friends.”