New Mexico tremor kills 4, halts rescue operations


News media, officials and volunteer rescuers all repeated the story of "Frida Sofia" with a sense of urgency that made it a national drama, drawing attention away from other rescue efforts across the quake-stricken city and leaving people in Mexico and overseas glued to their television sets.

Tuesday's 7.1 magnitude quake leveled 52 buildings in the sprawling Mexican capital, leaving thousands homeless and close to 300 people dead.

Among the biggest disappointments was the dashing of one of the most dearly held hopes - that a young girl trapped in a collapsed school had been detected alive by rescuers.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera told Saturday's press conference that rescue efforts were continuing at seven of the 38 residential and office buildings which collapsed in the city. "Don't kill them" and "We don't want machines" read others, referring to rumours that the military would use bulldozers to hasten the removal of rubble deemed unlikely to harbour survivors.

Throughout the region, buses carried volunteers from Mexico and beyond to disaster sites, where they bolstered search-and-rescue efforts.

The workers had been toiling through the night, and the change of rescuing the girl appeared to give them hope and objective despite their exhaustion.

Rescuers continued to search collapsed buildings in Mexico City, where many people may still be buried alive.

"I feel anxious. I don't feel safe", she said.

A hospitalized survivor of Tuesday's quake spoke to CNN about his ordeal after being trapped in rubble for 17 hours.

"I saw a woman ask for a bar of soap for her family and they grabbed a bar, cut it in four (pieces) and gave her a small chunk", Tapia said. "I have no idea, but he got them", Pacheco said.

"I came to help my countrymen", said Rolando Martinez Cruz, a 34-year-old volunteer from the suburbs of Mexico City.

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As the shock of this week began to subside, exhaustion crept in, along with growing discontent.

Mexico is still recovering from the massive natural disaster that virtually flattened Mexico City just days ago.

However, that hasn't stopped Frida from becoming a social media star and reaching a new level of fame this week. The owner, Juan Salazar, said all the renters had been accounted for before realizing that Ortiz's sister Maria, a maid, had been washing clothes on the roof when the quake struck.

The number of missing has fallen from 200 in the initial count to 42 people who may still be trapped under the rubble of collapsed structures, National Civil Protection Coordinator Luis Felipe Puente said. "But as good Mexicans we have to keep lending support however we can".

On Friday afternoon, after a full day's search, rescuers pulled Maria's body from the rubble.

Businesses and homes in the Mexican town's center were mostly shuttered and dark Thursday night. Tony Gali said. More than 9,700 homes and 100-plus government buildings were damaged in the state, Gali said. Sanchez is a member of The Times' Mexico City bureau. Terrified residents ran into the streets, where they crouched and prayed as quake sirens went off.

"What are we going to do?"

A representative of the association, Alberto Lopez Acevedo, said the buildings have serious fissures in their walls and columns.

As signs of tensions surfaced, the country's unpopular political class strove to shine.

Francisco Honoraro, a 46-year-old farmer in Mexico City's fertile Xochimilco district, is living on the streets while he waits for authorities to assess damage to his home, which is now propped up by wooden beams after the quake. "It is our duty as human beings to help when tragedies like the one that just happened in Mexico occur".