KRVS

Search Continues For Schoolchildren After Mexico City Earthquake

Sep 20, 2017
Originally published on September 21, 2017 10:48 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Rescuers continue to dig at the rubble of a school in Mexico City a day after a powerful earthquake toppled buildings throughout central Mexico, killing at least 225 people. Dozens of children are believed to still be buried under the collapsed concrete. One survivor was pulled out this morning, and efforts are underway now to free a trapped girl. Joining us now to talk about these rescue efforts is NPR's Carrie Kahn. She is near the site of the school right now. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: What does the scene look like right now? Can you describe it?

KAHN: I have actually moved a little farther away from where the school rescue effort is taking place. It's a very solemn area. It's very quiet. When the rescuers ask for everybody to be quiet, the place just falls silent. People put their fist up in the air, which is a signal for everybody to be quiet so that they could try and hear some, any, noise under the rubble. You see people coming with buckets. You see people going with pickaxes and shovels, coming with whatever they can to remove that rubble from that school.

And so I've moved a bit farther away. I'm about a block away from there. And the - where I'm at, it's a very chaotic scene. Cars and carloads of people and truckloads of people are coming to drop off whatever they can donate - tons of water, gloves, buckets, cleaning supplies, food. And it gets a little chaotic at these intersections where people are just trying to drop things off. And then they form a human chain and just try and bring the donations as close as they can to the - to where the rescue workers are.

CHANG: There have been reports of some of the children texting their parents, I understand, from beneath the rubble. What have you heard about that?

KAHN: Just heartbreaking to hear that. I heard that this morning from a defense department official speaking to reporters on Mexican television. You've heard that from a couple other reporters here at the scene, that some kids were able to text to their parents. We don't have that officially, so we'll have to see what happens. But just heartbreaking for those parents who are waiting.

There's, at the - also down there by the school, there's an intersection with a bunch of string that's been tied between trees. And people have put the names of the children in the school up there. And it's just filled with sheets of white paper with names scribbled on them. It's a desperate situation down there.

CHANG: Sounds painful. How are the rescuers even finding these survivors right now?

KAHN: It's amazing. I was speaking with one soldier who just took a step out of the rubble area. And he didn't want me to record him or interview him formally, and this is unofficial. But he just broke down crying. He said, it's just been exhausting. They're doing whatever they can. They're using the heavy machinery. They're using picks, their hands, shovels. They're putting tubes down. There was one report that they put a tube down to bring oxygen to the girl that they're trying to rescue and even to bring her water.

It's been over 24 hours now that they're - if there are any survivors, that they've been down there. So it's just a very sad situation. This rescue worker had come in at 11 o'clock last night and had not taken a break. And you could just see his eyes were bloodshot. He was trembling. And he just broke down talking to me. And I just tried to talk to him and listen to him as much as I could before he had to run back and resume the rescue effort.

CHANG: That sounds devastating. Thank you so much, Carrie. That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.