More Than 200 Killed In Mexico Earthquake

Sep 20, 2017
Originally published on September 20, 2017 10:35 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


This is a morning when we are covering a couple natural disasters there's Hurricane Maria a dangerous storm impacting Puerto Rico. And also we had the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico yesterday. This was the second massive quake to hit that country in two weeks.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Spanish).


GREENE: Some sounds from - as that quake was hitting. This quake killed hundreds of people and caused dozens of buildings to collapse, including apartment buildings and also part of a school where more than 20 students were killed. Thousands of people ran into the streets as the ground shook.

And we have more now from Emily Green in Mexico City.

EMILY GREEN, BYLINE: The earthquake hit shortly after 1 p.m. The epicenter was about 75 miles from Mexico City, near the town of Puebla. The quake was so strong that massive temblors could be felt in the capital city. Thousands of people fled their buildings and huddled on the street, many of them sobbing and in shock, including Susanna Sanchez.

SUSANNA SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) It was very bad, too much, horrible. I couldn't get down the staircase.

GREEN: The experience made all the worse because of the memories of the deadly 1985 earthquake that killed thousands of people in Mexico City. In a twist of fate almost too wild to be real, Tuesday's earthquake fell on the 32nd anniversary of that 1985 quake. Just two hours before it hit, a warning siren went off to commemorate that event and serve as an evacuation exercise. Sanchez's sister was among the victims of that earlier earthquake.

SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) She worked in a hospital. She couldn't leave. She was trapped. She stayed trapped and died there.

GREEN: Now, between sobs, Sanchez desperately tries to call her son to make sure he's OK. But the call won't go through.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking Spanish).

GREEN: Within a half mile, several apartment buildings had completely collapsed. At one building, hundreds of volunteers worked to remove the debris to reach people stranded underneath.

There's folks screaming out, if anybody has tools - any kind of tools to help get the rocks, to help get the concrete off and get the rubble off - to please, please bring them.

Hundreds of people formed long lines along the street, passing buckets, shovels, gallons of water and other aid to the buildings that had collapsed. Electricity was out throughout the city. And as the day wore on, more and more reports emerged of buildings reduced to rubble. With almost no cell service, people could be heard screaming out for their loved ones.





GREEN: Maria Messing was in Mexico City with her husband and 3-year-old daughter. They had come here from Houston, where they were escaping the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey. They were standing in the middle of a plaza when the quake hit.

MARIA MESSING: The trees were moving. I thought maybe the trees would come - like, fall over us. It was just a nightmare. That's the best way to describe it - like a really bad nightmare.


GREEN: As night fell, thousands of people were stranded as there were no running buses, trains or taxis. Even those close to home were afraid to return. Government officials warned residents not to return home until their buildings had been declared safe. Aftershocks could bring more powerful temblors to the area and yet more damage. For NPR News, I'm Emily Green in Mexico City.