21 Sep 2017

Frantic search for survivors at quake-hit Mexico school

9:15 am on 21 September 2017

At least 21 children and five adults died at a primary school which collapsed in Mexico City during yesterday's major earthquake, the government says.

Rescue teams search Rébsamen school in Mexico City overnight for people still missing.

Rescue teams search overnight for survivors at Enrique Rébsamen primary school in Mexico City. Photo: AFP

The shallow, 7.1 magnitude quake, which struck Tuesday afternoon local time (Wednesday morning NZT), killed at least 225 people and caused major damage across states in the centre of the country.

Rescuers frantically worked to dig a young girl out from under the rubble of Enrique Rébsamen primary school in the capital's southern Coapa district.

They had detected her after she moved her hand, and a hose was lowered through the debris to supply her with water, Reuters reported.

Rescuers moved slowly, putting up makeshift wooden scaffolding to prevent the remains of the teetering structure from crumbling. They implored bystanders to be quiet to better hear calls for help.

A woman outside Enrique Rébsamen school in Mexico City where at least 21 children died.

A woman stands outside the collapsed primary school during the search for survivors. Photo: AFP

The school was one of hundreds of buildings destroyed by the country's deadliest earthquake in a generation. Among them were several churches where worshippers were killed.

Lists of people and the hospitals they are in are posted near a school where at least 21 children died and 30 are missing.

Lists of people - and the hospitals they've been taken to - are posted near the school Photo: AFP

Education Minister Aurelio Nuño‏ said 11 people had been rescued from the school while two children and an adult were missing.

More than 500 members of the army and navy, along with 200 police officers and volunteers, have been working at the site, Mexican newspaper Milenio said.

Hundreds of neighbours and emergency workers pulled rubble from the ruins of the school with their bare hands under the glare of floodlights.

Three survivors were found about midnight as volunteer rescue teams known as "moles" crawled deep under the rubble.

By Wednesday morning, the workers said a teacher and two students had sent text messages from within the rubble. Parents clung to hope that their children were alive.

"They keep pulling kids out, but we know nothing of my daughter," said 32-year-old Adriana D'Fargo, her eyes red, who had been waiting for hours for news of her seven-year-old.

At least 209 schools were affected by the quake, 15 of which have suffered severe damage.

As rescue efforts continued at Enrique Rébsamen, a facility for children aged three to 14, emergency crews, volunteers and bystanders toiled elsewhere using dogs, cameras and heat-seeking equipment to detect survivors.

Reinforcements also began to arrive from countries including Panama, Israel and Chile, local media reported.

Overnight, volunteers with loudspeakers shouted the names of rescued children so that waiting family members could be reunited with them.

As desperate searches for survivors under the rubble continued, families with young children could be seen sleeping outside their homes in the street in the capital overnight.

- BBC / Reuters