COLIMA, Mexico (AP) – Emergency crews dug into piles of collapsed cement and brick yesterday to reach victims trapped by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 25 people, crumpling walls like paper, turning brick into powder and leaving steel reinforcement bars scattered like straws.
At least 300 people were injured in the 7.8 magnitude quake that hit western Mexico, civil defense officials said. Among the dead were a 90-year-old man crushed by a falling lamppost in the Colima state town of Tecoman and a 1-year-old girl killed by a collapsing brick ceiling in neighboring Jalisco state.
“All of a sudden the house came crashing down, and I was buried under a wall,” recounted Colima resident Doris Janet Robles, 17, who was at a prayer meeting at a relative’s house when the quake hit Tuesday night.
“I was suffocating, until my brother was able to get me out,” said Robles, who was hospitalized for a broken pelvis.
In the city of Guadalajara – Mexico’s second-largest, more than 100 miles from the epicenter – bells from one of colonial city’s dozens of ancient churches fell from the tower and dozens of homes partially collapsed.
The quake also rocked Mexico City, 300 miles east of the epicenter, sending terrified residents fleeing into the streets. But there was little damage in the Mexican capital.
At least 10 quakes ranging in magnitude from 3.9 to 4.5 shook the coastal area following Tuesday’s quake. The aftershocks did little additional damage, but one 5.8-magnitude temblor sent residents of Colima scurrying out of their damaged homes yesterday afternoon.
In Colima state’s capital, parts of downtown lay in ruins yesterday, with collapsed adobe houses and cars crushed under piles of bricks. In all, 166 homes were destroyed in the capital – also called Colima – home to 230,000 people. President Vicente Fox’s government called a state of emergency throughout the state.
Rescue workers in yellow suits dug through wrecked buildings, using pneumatic drills and their bare hands to pull away concrete slabs in search of survivors, and passers-by, relatives and neighbors joined the battle to save those trapped.
Maria Elena Ramirez, 47, was pulled from a pile of rubble that once was her home, along with her 7-year-old son Jesus Martin, both buried when a wall crashed down on them.