At least 21 school children killed in Mexico earthquake

Hundreds of volunteers are on their way back to Mexico following a powerful earthquake. They were in Houston to help with Harvey recovery.

MEXICO CITY —  Mexicans were reeling Wednesday, as rescuers worked through the night to try and find survivors of a devastating earthquake that rocked central Mexico the previous day.

The country's civil defense chief lowered the death toll to 217 early Wednesday. It had previously been put at 248 by authorities.

About 40% of Mexico City and 60% of nearby Morelos state were without power following Tuesday's magnitude-7.1 quake. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone.

It came less than 2 weeks after a magnitude-8.1 earthquake hit off Mexico's southern coast on Sept. 7, killing more than 90 people. That quake, which was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, was the most powerful to strike the country in a century.

Tuesday's quake hit 32 years to the day after a major earthquake devastated Mexico City in 1985, killing an estimated 9,500 people and destroying about 100,000 homes.

Parents and bystanders were desperately trying to rescue staff and students trapped in a collapsed school in southern Mexico City overnight.

The federal Education Department said that 25 bodies had been recovered from the Enrique Rebsamen school — 21 of them children. According to Animal Politico, at least 30 children and eight adults were still missing. 

Many of those in the streets said the force of the quake was as strong as the 1985 earthquake.

“This was the same as 1985. It shook bad,” said Gustavo de la Cruz, a parking lot attendant. He spotted a light fixture falling from a pole, but said the damage appeared a less severe as the last time. “That 1985 earthquake wrecked Mexico City,” he said.

“There was this explosion,” said Ubaldo Juárez, a barber, who was riding his bike through the trendy, but hard-hit Condesa neighborhood. “I saw this cloud of dust, like something out of a movie.”

Now, those who can help are headed to these areas to provide aid, including Gustavo Santillan with the Mexican Red Cross National Response Team.

“We’re planning on to do some search and rescue, we’re a specialist team in that,” said Santillan.

KHOU 11 caught the volunteer and his team preparing to board a flight to Mexico City at Bush Intercontinental Airport. The group came to Houston to provide aid to Harvey victims, but on Tuesday, as they watched images of buildings appearing to fall with little to no warning after the quake, only one thing came to mind.

“We wanted to come back,” he said.

As everyday people begin digging through the rubble, looking for survivors, Santillan and his team are hoping they too can make it in time. 

“Well, we don’t know what exactly to expect, so we are going to be there, and try to our best,” said Santillan.

Tuesday’s quake shut down airports in Mexico City and Puebla, both have since re-opened. 

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