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.


US moves 100 coffins to North Korean border for war remains

Updated 24 June 2018
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US moves 100 coffins to North Korean border for war remains

  • From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains
  • The transfer of remains is usually done in a somber, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned

SEOUL, South Korea: The US military said it moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border to prepare for North Korea’s returning of the remains of American soldiers who have been missing since the 1950-53 Korean War.
US Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll also said Saturday that 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a US air base near Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and would be used to send the remains home.
North Korea agreed to return US war remains during the June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. While the US military preparations suggest that the repatriation of war remains could be imminent, it remains unclear when and how it would occur.
Earlier Saturday, Carroll denied a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that US military vehicles carrying more than 200 caskets were planning to cross into North Korea on Saturday. He said plans for the repatriation were “still preliminary.”
US Forces Korea said in a statement later in the day that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the border as part of preparations to “receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so.”
From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.
But efforts to recover and return other remains have stalled for more than a decade because of the North’s nuclear weapons development and US claims that the safety of recovery teams it sent during the administration of former President George W. Bush was not sufficiently guaranteed.
US officials have said earlier that the remains are believed to be some or all of the more than 200 that the North Koreans have had for some time. But the precise number and the identities — including whether they are US or allied service members — won’t be known until the remains are tested.
The transfer of remains is usually done in a somber, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned.
Richard Downes, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, said last week that he had been told the North may have the remains of more than 200 American service members that were likely recovered from land during farming or construction and could be easily returned. But he said the vast majority have yet to be located and retrieved from various cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.
More than 36,000 US troops died in the conflict, including those listed as missing in action. Close to 7,700 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, and about 5,300 of those were lost in North Korea.
The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
According to Chuck Prichard, spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, once the remains are turned over, they would be sent to one of two Defense Department facilities — Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska — for tests to determine identification.