At least 23 people were dead and Mexico City subway cars dangled perilously from a collapsed overpass Tuesday as a feverish rescue bid slowly morphed into an effort to recover bodies from the most deadly accident in the history of one of the world’s busiest subway system.
The overpass collapsed late Monday, sending subway cars plunging from the city’s newest and most controversial subway line toward a busy boulevard. Rescuers brought in a crane to stabilize the wreckage so they could safely continue the operation.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims and to residents of Tláhuac, the borough where the accident took place. He promised a thorough probe of the tragedy.
“A hug to all the people of Tláhuac, to all those who are suffering from this accident,” he said. “There will be constant information and there is no impunity for anyone.”
Stunning video from the scene shows the overpass collapsing on a heavily trafficked road, multiple vehicles apparently crushed under the enormous heap of debris amid a cloud of dust and smoke.
It was not immediately clear whether four bodies found but still trapped in one of the subway cars were included in the death toll. Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said of children were among the victims and that about 70 people were injured, 49 requiring hospitalization.
Sheinbaum said a structural review of the entire line and an in-depth investigation of the cause of the tragedy would begin immediately. The overpass was about 16 feet above the road in Tláhuac, a fast-growing borough on the city’s southeast edge. The train ran above a concrete median strip, which may have lessened the casualties among motorists on the road below when a support beam gave way, the mayor said.
Rescue efforts ongoing:Mexico City metro overpass collapses, killing at least 23 and injuring 70, authorities say
Hundreds of friends and family of the dead and the missing descended on the area as police cordoned off a several blocks to allow for the complex rescue operation.
Adrián Loa Martínez, 46, said his half-brother and sister-in-law were driving when the overpass collapsed and a beam fell onto their car. He said that his sister-in-law was rescued and sent to a hospital, but that his half-brother was crushed and he feared he was dead.
“He is down there now,” he said.
Gisela Rioja Castro, 43, was looking for her husband, 42-year-old Miguel Ángel Espinoza. She said that her husband always takes that train after finishing work at a store, but he never returned home and had stopped answering his phone. When she heard what has happened, she immediately feared the worst but has gotten no information from the authorities.
“Nobody knows anything,” she said.
The city’s commuter subway train system – Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, or STC – consists of 12 lines and almost 200 stations providing about 1.4 billion rides annually. The first line opened in 1969.
Line 12, completed in 2012, stretches far into the city’s south side. It runs underground through more central areas of the city and on elevated concrete structures on the city’s outskirts.
Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard was mayor from 2006 to 2012, when Line 12 was built. Allegations of poor design, construction, mismanagement and corruption emerged soon after Ebrard left office as mayor. The line had to be partly closed in 2013 so tracks could be repaired. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck the area in 2017 rekindled concerns about track safety.
Ebrard called the accident a “terrible tragedy.”
“My solidarity with the victims and their families,” he tweeted. “Causes must be investigated and responsibilities defined. I (am at the) disposal of the authorities to contribute in whatever is necessary.”
Contributing: Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; The Associated Press