Rescuers in grim search for survivors of Mexico quake

Rescuers search for survivors amid the rubble from a building flattened by the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico City. AFP
Updated 21 September 2017
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Rescuers in grim search for survivors of Mexico quake

MEXICO CITY: Rescuers dug Thursday for survivors of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 233 people in Mexico, as the nation watched anxiously for signs of life at a collapsed school in the capital.
Firefighters, police, soldiers and volunteers worked frantically to remove rubble in scenes repeated across a swath of central states in Mexico’s second killer earthquake this month.
The most agonizing search was at a school in the south of Mexico City where 21 children – aged between seven and 13 – and five adults were crushed to death. Many children were still missing.
Rescue workers were desperately trying to reach several children believed to be alive beneath the wreckage in the early hours of Thursday – some 36 hours after the quake struck. Using a thermal scanner, they had located signs of life in several locations.
“They are alive! Alive!” shouted Civil Protection volunteer Enrique Garcia, 37. “Someone hit a wall several times in one place, and in another there was a response to light signals,” he said.
“We have been at this since yesterday, but we cannot reach them, because they are trapped between two slabs.”
So far, 11 children and at least one teacher have been rescued from the rubble of the Enrique Rebsamen elementary and middle school.
“No one can possibly imagine the pain I’m in right now,” said one mother, Adriana Fargo, who was standing outside what remained of the school waiting for news of her seven-year-old daughter.
In the Condesa neighborhood, Karen Guzman sat on a stool in the street with her back to one of the collapsed buildings. She said she could not bear the tension of the search for around 30 people thought to be under the rubble, among them her brother.
Beside her were two street poles tagged with lists of rescued people, but they did not include the name of her brother Juan Antonio, a 43-year-old accountant who worked on the top floor of the four-story building.
“My mom is looking for him in hospitals because we don’t trust those lists. Sometimes I think nobody knows anything,” she said.
Emergency workers reported that some victims had been rescued thanks to WhatsApp messages they sent to relatives while trapped under the debris.
Rescue teams were helped by thousands of ordinary civilians who dug through the rubble alongside them. Other Mexicans took to the streets with food and water for victims and emergency workers.
President Enrique Pena Nieto toured the hardest-hit areas and declared three days of national mourning.
“The priority remains saving lives,” he said in a national address, insisting there was still hope of pulling survivors from the rubble.
More than 50 people have been rescued from collapsed buildings in the capital, he said.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera told Televisa TV that 39 buildings in the capital had fallen. Searches were under way in all but five where rescuers had determined that nobody remained trapped, he said.
Five Taiwanese were trapped in a three-story building that had collapsed in Mexico City, according to Taiwan’s foreign ministry. They included two relatives of a Taiwanese businessman, whose office is in the building, as well as three employees.


Macron honors Algerians who fought for colonial France

Updated 1 min 29 sec ago
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Macron honors Algerians who fought for colonial France

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron announced honors on Friday for Algerians who fought alongside French troops in Algeria’s war of independence, part of fresh moves to confront France’s painful legacy in north Africa.
Macron is to grant national awards to more than 20 former fighters and people who have battled for recognition of the Algerians who fought for Paris in the country’s brutal eight-year liberation war.
After a peace accord granted Algerian independence on March 18, 1962, only around 60,000 Algerian loyalists known as “harkis” were allowed into France. There, they suffered rampant discrimination and, in many cases, poverty.
The rest — between 55,000 and 75,000, according to historians — remained in Algeria, where many were massacred after being accused of being traitors.
Notifications published in the official journal on Friday showed that Macron would grant the Legion d’Honneur, the country’s top honor, to six former fighters and the co-founder of an association which has fought for their rights.
Another 19 people are to be granted an Order of Merit, ahead of France’s National Harki Day on September 25.
The fate of the harkis in France and their descendants, who number hundreds of thousands, remains a highly sensitive issue in France, acting as a reminder of its colonial history.
Previous presidents of the left and right had taken cautious steps to acknowledge and face up to French wrongdoing in Algeria and after the war.
Rightwing leader Nicolas Sarkozy admitted in 2012 that France failed in its duty toward the Algerians who fought for France, saying the country “should have protected the harkis from history, it did not do so.”
Macron has gone further than his predecessors in addressing France’s past in Algeria.
Last year he sparked controversy on the campaign trail by declaring that France’s colonization of Algeria was a “crime against humanity,” leading to protests from some harki groups.
And last week he acknowledged that the French military instituted a “system” that facilitated torture as it sought to cling on to its 130-year rule in the country.
He made the announcement while admitting that the French state was responsible for the torture and death of mathematician Maurice Audin, a French Communist pro-independence activist who disappeared in Algiers in 1957.
The 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence sparked fears of a coup in France, with mutinous generals reluctant to relinquish the colony.
The conflict left at least 400,000 people dead.