MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities raised on Tuesday the death toll from a magnitude-7.1 earthquake that struck the center of the country to 149, while Mexican armed forces and emergency services were carrying out rescue operations in the affected areas.
“At the moment 149 deaths are reported,” Luis Felipe Puente, the National Civil Protection coordinator, said on his social media.
He further added that 55 of them were reported in Morelos, 49 in Mexico City, 32 in Puebla, 10 in the State of Mexico and three in Guerrero.
The Mexican Armed Forces were deployed Tuesday night to provide security around the 44 buildings that collapsed in Mexico City and assisted in the rescue operations with support from the emergency services.
Mexican authorities recorded a total of 44 collapsed sites.
“In each (site) there will be a command, and an important group of the Army and Navy are already in the sites,” Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio told the television channel Televisa.
With help from Mexican citizens, survivors were immediately transferred by emergency services to nearby hospitals.
Due to the great magnitude of the earthquake, the Mexican government ordered both public and private hospitals to immediately attend to those injured, as well as to provide free public transportation services for them.
The earthquake was registered at 13:14 local time (1814 GMT), a moment when the traffic is usually in full swing, which consequently hindered the work of emergency services that tried to enter the area.
“What hinders (the rescue tasks) the most is the number of vehicles in transit. It has been several hours since the quake struck and traffic continues,” said the Interior Secretary, who urged citizens to “clear the streets” so that emergency services could enter the affected areas.
Like 32 years ago, the tragic disaster again united Mexican citizens, who removed debris with their bare hands.
As there were too many people volunteering in the rescue tasks, the Armed Forces stepped in take over and organize operations.
The Army and Navy activated the DN-III Plan and the Marine Plan, respectively, as parts of their rescue missions for Mexico City.
In addition, Mexico City’s Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera issued an emergency declaration so that authorities could receive all necessary support, while the Interior Ministry also declared an “extraordinary emergency” for the city.
The main order of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was to search for survivors using shovels as the use of heavy machinery was not permitted.
The quake also caused power cuts, gas leaks and disrupted telephone service in various areas, affecting about 3.8 million people.
School activities were suspended until further notice in Mexico City and in the states of Mexico, Guerrero Hidalgo, Morelos, Puebla, Veracruz and Tlaxcala.
The quake coincided with the 32nd anniversary of a previous deadly earthquake that killed thousands people in 1985.
It also occurred only a few days after another powerful magnitude-8.2 earthquake hit the south of the country on Sept. 7, leaving 98 dead.