Marcela Turati reports in Proceso that government and military personnel with experience in digging through rubble for survivors are complaining that civilians had "taken over" the rescue operations at collapsed buildings in Mexico City.
The trained personnel say picking away stones from the top of a collapsed structure — bit by bit, as civilians have lined up to do since the minutes after the quake hit — does not work.
"We made a tunnel, but we should have made five more," one unnamed engineer told Turati from an apartment tower that crumbled on Ave Amsterdam in trendy Condesa. "One tunnel, because they don't want to listen to the military or to Civil Protection. They're not listening to the firefighters, or those of us who lived through '85. [...] The ones giving orders don't know."
Reports say that site has already been cleared for victims. Watch these other heart-wrenching rescues.
Four days since the Sept. 19 quake hit, this still feels like a death in the family.
My friends' Facebook posts in DF are heartbreaking, stirring. My people are still out there on the streets, finding ways to help. Others I know are joining caravans to reach the most affected and so far largely neglected areas of Puebla and Morelos.
These are streets, places, faces, voices that we know, intimately. I know so many people here in the United States and really around the world who have been touched by Mexico in some form feel the same way today.
More than 300 people are dead, according to official figures. The majority of the victims are in densely populated Mexico City and in Morelos, near the epicenter of the 7.1R sismo that hit at 1:14 pm Central Time on Tuesday. Dozens of buildings fell in Mexico City and in the states of Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca, which was still reeling from the 8.1R quake of September 7.
Unknown numbers of people are injured, unknown numbers of buildings are permanently unsafe, unknown numbers of roads and other infrastructure are damaged. I'm worried about the little towns and villages in remote corners of Chiapas and Puebla that have not received aid.
Millions, millions of people today are in shock, distress, and by now, almost certain fatigue.
And now the fissures between government and society — always churning just below the surface — are emerging. Among citizens, there is a sense that this moment of "control" over the streets and the soaring solidarity cannot be let go from the people's grasp. We've suffered so much in the last ten years, endured so much chaos, violence, political stagnation.
Is this what it takes for Mexican society to actually wake up and do something? Can we sustain it?
This morning on Aristegui Noticias live, anchor Carmen Aristegui said: "In this moment of tragedy we are seeing that Mexico we wish to be, that muscle, that spirit, that vigor, that will to not be just a sitting flower but part of a society."
* Above, a woman volunteer rescuer outside the textile sweatshop in Colonia Obrera where 21 bodies have been recovered. Excuse her while she eats her torta. (Via Martha Ugarte)
Criticism has emerged over the Peña Nieto administration's optics handling. Video of one incident shows interior secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong being jeered away from a rescue site on the very first day of the disaster.
Reports have also emerged of convoys of being turned away in Morelos due to bureaucratic stops. This is something to watch out for in the days ahead.
The president and top cabinet officials visited the Rébsamen campus and had photo-ops, but did not illuminate or apparently guide the rescue operation. Differing rumors circulated about the possibility of a girl named "Frida Sofia" alive under the rubble, then circulated through the press, then were later proven false.
Frida Sofía never existed. And parents who are actually real and grieving say the education secretary has not contacted them at all.
Criticism has also rained down on default government-media conglomerate Televisa for apparently having exclusive access to some of the rescue sites, including the Rébsamen school. As far as the story of the child is concerned, some asked, could it be the fatigue, shock, and adrenaline coursing through the volunteer rescuers? Several at the school insisted to the Associated Press even after the story was proven false that a surviving child still existed down there.
Last night a contact in DF told me she was certain that rescuers heard voices, and maybe they did. Maybe they heard ghosts, the spirits of the 21 dead kids, she said.
El Universal is calling Frida Sofia a "ghost story." This is a signal of collective trauma, of course.
Either way, the case demonstrated a breakdown in communication at the government level, and apparently in standards and practices for journalists reporting from these sites. Colleagues say access is restricted. If a shaken and tired rescuer emerged and said something promising, of course, the impulse was to report it ...
The earthquake hit on the anniversary to the day of the 1985 quake that left at least 10,000 if not up to 30,000 people dead. My dad later called the coincidence "diabolical" and that is how I will describe this situation for the rest of my life. There's something cruel about this, a planet rendering punishment.
This time, only two weeks earlier, southern Mexico got severely ratted by an 8.1R monster in the Pacific that left more than 100 people dead, and the city of Juchitán (Oaxaca) largely devastated. Chiapas and Oaxaca were already begging not to be forgotten in the news cycle.
Keep in mind these big ones come about once or twice a year for central Mexico. They shake Mexico City good, because it's 20 million people on a dry lake in a high valley near some volcanoes, but "if it didn't fall in 1985, it won't fall ever."
The quake twelve days earlier put DF on the edge, but there also might have been a false sense of complacency; another heavy one went down, no major damages in the city as in 1985. Saved. Again ...
That morning, as they do solemnly every year, the president and his top brass held a flag ceremony on the Zócalo at dawn, when the big earthquake struck on September 19, 1985. This was Peña Nieto's fifth time doing this ceremony during his term.
The leaders were already dressed in black.
Mexico City, which suffered the worst in 1985 because that earthquake was centered relatively close — in Michoacán — has for years conducted a full earthquake drill across schools and office buildings to recall the devastation and the heroic civilian efforts of the '85 disaster.
Every Sept. 19, we recall how the DNA of the country was altered forever. The topos and grassroots brigades mobilized to save people from a sea of collapsed buildings, in a rising stench of human decay, and helped spark the fall of the PRI regime during its most decadent years, and moved us toward reforms.
On Tuesday, DF had its earthquake-drill, and then everyone went back to their offices and classrooms.
Another quake with that level of damage was not supposed to happen again. Not that same day. But it did. And now the regular, tough citizens of Mexico and Mexico City — mexicanos and foreigners, side by side — are rising and leading the way.
The sense of fear and panic that I hear is lingering in the air over DF now, four days into the disaster, is rooted partly in the sudden awareness not only that another 1985 has happened, but that a 2017 is now sure to happen at some point again in the future.
** More ...
* Top photo: Yuri Cortez via AFP.