Death Toll In Mexico Earthquake Rises Above 200 As Search For Survivors Continues

MEXICO CITY (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — A desperate search for survivors continued in Mexico Wednesday, as the death toll from a massive earthquake this week continued to rise.

At least 230 people were killed after the 7.1 magnitude quake struck central Mexico, toppling dozens of buildings, including a school in the capital of Mexico City.

Swaying from the tremors caused explosions, power outages and desperation. People are using heavy machinery to clear debris, and emergency workers are climbing into dangerous spots to save those who are trapped as precious time continues to pass.

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One man could be seen tying the names of the missing onto a light pole as hundreds crowded the streets out of fear their building would fall next, while others crouched into tight hallways to wait out the rolling tremors.

As CBS News’ Chris Martinez reported, more than 50 people had been pulled from the rubble of the earthquake as of late Wednesday. Rescuers are conducting separate searches, looking for survivors in the deadliest earthquake to hit the country since 1985.

On Wednesday, rescuers were frantically digging into the ruins of collapsed buildings.

They made contact with a young girl trapped inside this demolished elementary school in Mexico City Wednesday morning, but the process to remove her was slow and dangerous because the rubble was not stable.

Searchers halted their efforts and raised their hands several times urging for quiet, hoping to hear voices from inside the wreckage.

Earlier, they pulled out several young children. But at least 21 students and four teachers died.

Volunteer Alex Osorio, a banker, helped free four people from a demolished office building.

“They were making noise with metal — with coins — so that the volunteers rescue could hear that noise,” Osorio said.

They used coins to hit metal, hoping the rescuers could hear it “on the other side of the wall,” he said.

First responders’ work has been at times frantic, at times painstaking — removing bricks and rubble by hand to avoid collapsing additional debris from the many buildings that collapsed. They formed bucket brigades and worked shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of volunteers.

Outside a collapsed building, CBS News found Marta Laura praying with her rosary. Her husband started work at the building as an engineer just this week.

She shook her head when asked if she had heard anything.

She said the last thing that you give up is faith that he will be alive — for her children.

Officials said the earthquake reduced at least 44 office buildings, homes and schools to piles of concrete in Mexico City alone. There was also massive damage in rural areas.

PHOTOS: 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Central Mexico

In Jojutla, near the quake’s epicenter at Puebla, entire blocks were destroyed.

One man said his wife and grandson barely escaped when a church came toppling down. But others weren’t as fortunate, and families started holding wakes for the dead this morning.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto toured the damage Tuesday night, and asked people to remain calm.

“Our priority at this moment is to continue with the rescue of those who are trapped and to give medical attention to those who are injured,” he said.

President Donald Trump tweeted his support.

“God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you,” Trump said.

Sadly, the natural disaster happened on the anniversary of an earthquake which killed thousands of Mexican people 32 years ago.

Many buildings hold earthquake drills each anniversary that officials say have helped save lives.

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