Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mexico quake death toll climbs to 324, schools gradually reopen

Mexico quake death toll climbs to 324
The latest death toll from a powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that hit central Mexico on Sept. 19 climbed to 324 on Monday, more than half of them in Mexico City.

The head of the national civil protection agency, Luis Felipe Puente, said 186 people were killed in the capital, where the seismic tremors toppled at least 38 buildings and damaged thousands of others.

Mexico City's death toll has been gradually climbing as rescue efforts continue to recover bodies from the rubble nearly a week after the deadly quake that struck at 1:14 p.m. local time (18:14 GMT).

At a press conference Monday, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said an estimated 40 people are believed to still be trapped under rubble, mainly at two collapsed buildings.

"All of the figures we have are approximate figures, figures we have been crosschecking with statements from relatives, statements from witnesses who worked in these places and obviously also with people who were there under other circumstances," Mancera said.

Officials are set to unveil a reconstruction plan for the city on Tuesday, he added.

Authorities have been inspecting damaged buildings and the vast majority, about 8,000 out of a total of more than 9,000, have been deemed habitable, he said.

After appearing deserted for most of last week, the city on Monday began to return to a degree of normalcy as some businesses that had remained closed began operating and a few schools that were not damaged reopened.

However, thousands of school buildings across the quake hit central Mexico region did sustain damage and need repairing, while hundreds of others will have to be completely rebuilt, Education Minister Aurelio Nuno said.

"The latest report, not just for Mexico City, but for all the states affected, shows nearly 10,000 schools have reported damages ... nearly 400 are going to have to be rebuilt," Nuno said at a ceremony at a school in the capital to mark the return to classes.

Schools in central Mexico will gradually reopen as they pass inspection, he said.

"We are going to inspect all the schools in the city and all the states hit by the quake, to guarantee they are in good condition," said Nuno, estimating it will take another two weeks for schools to be operating normally.

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