MEXICO CITY – Rescuers hunting for survivors amid the rubble of a Mexico City school toppled by this week’s powerful earthquake say they have established contact with a girl identified as Frida and are very close to reaching her location and bringing her to safety, an official said early Thursday.
“We know of a girl who tells us she’s alive, and she’s saying there are other children alive nearby. But we don’t have the number. We’re handling this information with great care,” Adm. Jose Luis Vergara, a spokesman for Mexico’s Navy Secretariat, told Milenio Television.
Vergara, who is supervising the round-the-clock rescue effort at the Enrique Rebsamen school, said rescuers had had to shift their strategy for reaching the 12-year-old Frida, who has become a symbol of efforts to find survivors amid the rubble of buildings.
He said rescuers were now trying to reach the girl from above after breaking a slab of concrete, although they also are using a second access route.
“Everything indicates the cut we made in the slab is what will get us there,” he said.
Rescuers are three-and-a-half meters (11.5 feet) above Frida, who is under a granite table that likely saved her life, Vergara said.
No visual contact has been established with the girl, who contacted her mother Tuesday night via WhatsApp to say she had survived the quake, was in good condition and was with other children, the official said, although adding that infrared and acoustic sensors and the girl’s own voice were guiding them to her.
He said time was of the essence in trying to reach Frida and other survivors, noting that they had now spent two nights under the rubble.
Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck at 1:14 pm (1814 GMT) and thus far has left 230 dead in Mexico City and several nearby states and caused dozens of buildings to collapse, including the Enrique Rebsamen school, which teaches elementary, middle and high-school students.
The Public Education Secretariat’s most recent report indicates the collapse of that school left 25 dead (21 children and four adults), although other sources put the number of child fatalities there at 32 and overall fatalities at 37.
Local media say that 14 people have been pulled to safety at the school and that it remains unclear how many more could be under the rubble.