October 11, 1995 in Nation/World

Mexican Quake Toll Nears 50 Rescuers Hunt For Survivors In Devastated Coastal Towns

Associated Press
 

Searching by floodlight, rescue workers heard possible signs of life late Tuesday in the wrecked masonry of a hotel that collapsed when a powerful earthquake devastated a long stretch of Mexico’s west coast.

“We hear noises as we work … perhaps there are a few people inside still alive,” said Carlos Galeana, a municipal police officer assisting in rescue efforts at the eight-story Costa Real hotel.

Rescuers also pulled the body of a 42-year-old Mexico City resident from the hotel rubble Tuesday. Some tourists were believed trapped, but further information about them was unavailable.

Officials said at least 48 people were killed and more than 90 injured in Monday’s 7.6-magnitude tremor, which toppled homes, cracked bridges, split highways and cut power and phone services.

For the second day in a row, estimates of the death toll wobbled back and forth as officials attempted to account for fatalities that had been reported more than once.

Hundreds of buildings were wrecked or damaged along a 250-mile stretch of coast - an estimated 800 homes in the state of Jalisco and as many as 400 in the neighboring state of Colima.

In towns and villages, residents cleaned streets, removed fallen tree branches and righted toppled telephone poles. They also buried the dead and tried to reassemble their lives.

“We are awaiting more precise information, but obviously it is a tremendous tragedy,” Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre, the defense secretary, said Tuesday.

As trained dogs sniffed the hotel ruins for signs of life, workers used picks and shovels to comb through chunks of broken masonry. The lack of success and the painfully slow pace of the work made the strenuous job even more discouraging. Masks protected rescuers from dust and the odor of dead bodies.

“I haven’t rested since yesterday,” federal judicial police Officer Pedro Sandoval said, taking a quick break.

It was the second major tremor in less than a month centered offshore where Colima and Jalisco meet - and the strongest since a 1932 quake that measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, no longer used. A 7.3-magnitude quake on Sept. 14 killed five people in the area.

Both of the past month’s quakes were measured by their moment magnitude, a scale similar to the Richter.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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