Desperate parents joined police, firefighters and volunteers as they worked through the night, in a frantic search for dozens of young children feared buried under a Mexico City school destroyed by the country's most lethal earthquake in a generation.
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Search and rescue operations are carried out at the site of a collapsed school after an earthquake in Condesa, Mexico CityRafael Arias/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers remove rubble and debris from a flattened schoolPedro Pardo/AFP
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers remove rubble and debris from a flattened schoolYuri Cortez/AFP
At time of publication, the bodies of 22 children and two adults had been found in the twisted concrete and steel ruin of the Enrique Rebsamen school. Another 30 children and 12 adults were missing. The number of confirmed fatalities across Mexico stands at 248.
Volunteers, soldiers and firefighters formed human chains as they removed chunks of rubble from the three-storey building, which had collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs.
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Rescuers search for survivors buried under the rubble and debris of a school in Mexico CityMiguel Tovar/AFP
Mexico City earthquake
People remove debris from a collapsed school after an earthquake in Mexico CityHenry Romero/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake
Volunteers remove rubble from a school knocked down by a magnitude 7.1 earthquakeChristian Palma/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Rubble from a collapsed school is passed along a chain of peopleChristian Palma/Getty Images
The rescue effort was punctuated by cries of "Silence!" so searchers could listen for any faint calls for help. The volunteers stopped passing wooden shoring beams and buckets of rubble and became quiet. Silently, they held their fists in the air in a gesture of hope, solidarity and resilience.
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers rise their clenched fists asking for silence to be able to hear the voices of possible survivors buried under the rubbleRaul Arboleda/AFP
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers gesture they search for victims amid the ruins of a school knocked down by a magnitude 7.1 earthquakePedro Mera/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers and residents look for victims amid the ruins of a schoolPedro Mera/Getty Images
Volunteer rescue worker Dr Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the pile of rubble. He made it into a classroom, but found all of its occupants dead. "We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults — a woman and a man," he said. "We can hear small noises, but we don't know if they're coming from above or below, from the walls above (crumbling), or someone below calling for help."
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
A man holds up a sign that reads "silence" as rescue personnel look for people underneath the rubble of a collapsed school after an earthquake hit Mexico City,Claudia Daut/Reuters
A mix of neighbourhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school's rubble. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
A rescue dog searches for people among the rubble of a collapsed school after an earthquake hit Mexico CityClaudia Daut/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers desperately remove rubble and debris from a flattened school in Mexico CityYuri Cortez/AFP
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers search for survivors buried under the rubble and debris of a school flattened by a 7.1-magnitude quake in Mexico CityRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers work in the rubbleRafael S. Fabres/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers remove rubble and debris from a flattened school in search of survivors after a powerful quake in Mexico CityRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
The work continued through the night, as pickup trucks loaded with volunteer rescuers with shovels and pickaxes sped through the darkened streets of the capital. With power out in much of the city, the work was carried out in the dark or with flashlights and generators.
Mexico City earthquake
The search goes on overnight at the school knocked down by a magnitude 7.1 earthquakeHector Vivas/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers and people work through the night at the site of a collapsed school in Mexico CityHenry Romero/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake
Rescue teams work through the night at the Rébsamen school in Mexico CityJose Garcia/AFP
A crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.
There were chaotic scenes at the school as parents clung to hope their children had survived. "They keep pulling kids out, but we know nothing of my daughter," said 32-year-old Adriana D'Fargo, her eyes red after hours waiting for news of her seven-year-old.
Three survivors were found at around midnight. "Relatives of Fatima Navarro," a soldier shouted through cupped hands at the school the Coapa district in the south of the city. "Fatima is alive!"
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Rescuers and residents assists an injured victim amid the ruins of a building in Mexico CityPedro Mera/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
A woman is carried away after being pulled out of the rubble following a quake in Mexico CityAlfredo Estrella/AFP
Mexico City earthquake
Rescuers and residents assist an injured victim amid the ruins of a buildingHector Vivas/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
An injured woman is helped after a powerful quake in Mexico City on 19 September 2017PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
Police officers take part in the rescue operation to free possible victims out of the rubble after a quake rattled Mexico City on 19 September 2017YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
A man cries after the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that jolted central MexicoHector Vivas/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
An injured person is taken away on a stretcher after being rescued from the ruins of a collapsed building after a quake in Mexico City on 19 September 2017ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
People rescue a man after an earthquake hit Mexico CityCarlos Jasso/Reuters
The earthquake toppled dozens of buildings, broke gas mains and sparked fires across the city and other towns in central Mexico. Falling rubble and billboards crushed cars. Parts of colonial-era churches crumbled in the state of Puebla, to the south of the capital, where the US Geological Survey (USGS) located the quake's epicentre.
As the earth shook, Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano, visible from the capital on a clear day, had a small eruption. On its slopes, a church in Atzitzihuacan collapsed during mass, killing 15 people, Puebla Governor Jose Antonio Gali said.
The magnitude-7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours earlier, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date. It also came less than two weeks after a powerful tremor killed nearly 100 people in the south of the country.
Mexico City earthquake
An injured woman is helped after an earthquake hit Mexico CityCarlos Jasso/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake
People help a wounded man after an earthquake in Mexico CityKevin Chrisman/AFP
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Patients waits after being evacuated from a hospital in Mexico City following the magnitude 7.1 earthquakeHector Vivas/Getty Images
Mexico City earthquake
Nurses look after small children lying in cots after they were evacuated from a hospital in Mexico CityCarlos Jasso/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake
Rubble lies on a taxi next to a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico CityGinnette Riquelme/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake
People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico CityCarlos Jasso/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
A woman reacts after she and others were rescued after an earthquake hit Mexico CityCarlos Jasso/Reuters
Mexico City earthquake terremoto CDMX sismo
Smoke rises out of a building after an earthquake in Mexico CityGinnette Riquelme/Reuters