Rescuers have honed in on 10 buildings in the hope of finding survivors in the rubble of this week's Mexican earthquake. But, reports of a 12-year old girl thought to have been trapped turned out to be untrue.
Rescue workers labored to free trapped survivors in Mexico City on Friday morning, almost three days after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake collapsed buildings and killed at least 273 people in the capital city and surrounding area.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said later in the day that there could be people still alive in 10 buildings.
Rescuers were reportedly focusing on these buildings. Those trapped are believed to included five Taiwanese workers in a textile factory in downtown Mexico City.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said 50 people were not accounted for, while first responders and volunteers have reportedly saved 60 survivors.
The full scale of damage has not been calculated, with buildings across the city of 20 million people badly cracked.
The lost girl
Authorities said later on Thursday that the story of a girl who was thought to have been trapped inside the rubble of a collapsed school had not actually been true.
"We have carried out a full count with the directors of the school and we are sure that all the children are either safe at home, in the hospital or unfortunately died," Angel Enrique Sarmiento, a senior officer in the Mexican marines, told journalists next to the ruins of the Enrique Rebsamen school.
"There are indications there may be an (adult) still alive in the rubble. There are traces of blood, photographs, as if the person had dragged him or herself and may still be alive," he added.
The story had made headlines around the world after the quake, a ray of hope into the tragedy.
Protruding from the rubble, the girl's hand had reportedly been seen wiggling on Wednesday evening, a signal that started a frantic effort to reach her that lasted throughout the night.
Admiral Jose Luis Vergara had said his team was finding it difficult to locate the girl.
A national tragedy
Nieto declared three days of mourning on Thursday and tried to reassure his citizens in the midst of the relief effort.
"Faced with the force of nature, we are all vulnerable and that is why we all unite when it comes to saving a life or helping a victim," he said. "If anything distinguishes Mexicans, it is our generosity and fraternity."
Mexican authorities have confirmed at least 115 dead in Mexico City and 117 dead in adjoining Morelos state and Puebla state. Over 1,900 people were injured and over 50 buildings in the capital alone had collapsed.
The United States, Spain, Japan and Israel as well as nine Latin American countries have promised to provide aid to an effort that has been unable to use heavy equipment for fear of crushing survivors.
Tuesday's quake hit 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Mexico City in Puebla state in the afternoon. Striking only 31 kilometers (32 miles) below the surface, the quake's shockwaves caused widespread damage throughout the region.
amp/sms (AP, Reuters)