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Mexico earthquake: Death toll rises, rescue attempts continue

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – SEPTEMBER 19: Rescuers work in the rubble after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck on September 19, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico. The earthquake caused multiple fatalities, destroyed buildings and knocked out power throughout the capital. (Photo by Rafael S. Fabres/Getty Images)

Rescuers in hard hats and masks descended Wednesday on Mexico City in search of survivors after a deadly earthquake struck the region.

“The priority now is continue rescuing those who are still trapped and provide medical attention to the injured,” President Enrique Peña Nieto said, calling the quake — the second to shake Mexico in 12 days — “a new national emergency.”

The 7.1 magnitude quake turned dozens of buildings in central Mexico into dust and debris, killing at least 225 people.

According to Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator of civil protection for the Interior Ministry, 94 of the deaths came in Mexico City — which, with an urban area of more than 21 million people, is one of the most populous cities in the Western Hemisphere.

There were also 71 deaths in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla state, 12 in the state of Mexico, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca state, according to Puente’s tally. To provide some scope of the affected area, Oaxaca de Juarez, the capital of Oaxaca state, is almost 300 miles (480 kilometers) from Mexico City.

The country has declared three days of mourning for those killed in the quake, according to Mexico’s Secretary of Public Function.

Twenty-five bodies, 21 of them children, were found in the debris of the Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City’s Coapa district, Puente said in a tweet. At least 30 children were missing as of Tuesday night, according to Peña Nieto.

“Unfortunately many people have lost their lives, including girls and boys in schools, buildings and houses. I want to express my condolences to those who lost a family member or a loved one. Mexico shares your grief,” the President said.

Photos of missing students circulated on social media, while dozens of parents waited outside the school hoping to find them. The family of 7-year-old Jose Eduardo Huerta Rodriguez looked for hours through handwritten lists with names of those who had been rescued. They also visited the city’s hospitals.

Late Tuesday night, a family member who had stayed outside the school called Jose’s mother.

“He was still inside the school, and he was dead when they rescued him,” his aunt Paola Rodriguez told CNN.

About a mile away, four people were killed and 40 more injured at the Monterrey Institute of Technology campus in Mexico City, the school said.

An unaccounted number of people are staying at shelters around the city after losing their homes. Schools have closed indefinitely, and millions remain without power.

Peña Nieto asked people to stay indoors and stay away from the streets while the rescue attempts continue. Still, residents are joining forces with rescue workers to search for survivors.

Hours before Tuesday’s earthquake, authorities held a citywide drill on the anniversary of an earthquake that killed an estimated 9,500 people in and around Mexico City in 1985, one the country’s worst natural disasters.

“This is one of those moments where we all need to come together,” said Dorothy Munoz after she grabbed her dogs and raced to the street when the quake shook her apartment.

Less than two weeks ago, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off Mexico’s southern coast, killing at least 90 people, according to the governor of the state of Oaxaca.

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