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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Church collapse in Mexico kills 10 during collective baptism

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega and Simon Romero Washington Post

MEXICO CITY — Rescuers in northern Mexico recovered the bodies of 10 people who died after the roof of a Roman Catholic church collapsed during Sunday Mass in Ciudad Madero, an oil-refining city on the Gulf of Mexico. Among the youngest victims were three children, including a 1½-year-old boy.

The roof’s collapse took place during a collective baptism, according to the Diocese of Tampico. About 60 people were injured, and 23 of them remained hospitalized Monday morning, the Tamaulipas state security spokesperson’s office said.

About 100 people were inside the Santa Cruz church at the time of the collapse, officials said.

“I felt I would not be able to see my beautiful family again,” Josefina Ramírez, a survivor, said in a post on Facebook describing the moments after the roof caved in while she was attending her goddaughter’s baptism. “I cannot explain how we got out.” Her goddaughter’s fate was unknown on Monday morning.

In the moments after it gave way, survivors used chairs to break windows in desperate efforts to get outside as some screamed that children were still trapped inside, according to local news reports.

By Monday morning, the rescue work had concluded and no more casualties were expected, said Jorge Cuéllar, the Tamaulipas security spokesperson, in an interview.

“I’m a faithful believer that we all die at the time that God decides,” the Rev. Ángel Vargas, the priest who was delivering mass at the time that the roof collapsed, said in televised comments. “Some are now gone and others of us remain,” he added. “Those who are gone, rest in peace. Those who remain, we’ll surely suffer the rest of our lives.”

It was not immediately clear why the church’s roof collapsed.

“Experts are going to come in to determine the reasons this unfortunate accident occurred,” Cuéllar said. “One can infer that it is because of lack of maintenance. However, what is important and official is the report to be made by the experts.”

Onlookers gathered around the site early Monday to pray as rescue workers using dogs, thermal-sensing equipment and saws to cut through debris worked intently to find possible survivors. In addition to the Red Cross, public agencies, including the state police, state civil defense office and the National Guard were involved in the rescue operation.

“My solidarity with all the families who have lost their loved ones and with the community for this unfortunate accident,” Tamaulipas Gov. Américo Villareal said on social media. Tamaulipas security and civil protection agencies, he added, have sent officials to help rescue survivors, retrieve bodies and remove debris from the area.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.