At least 23 people were dead and Mexico City subway cars dangled perilously from a collapsed overpass Tuesday as rescuers frantically searched for survivors of 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.
“We don’t know if they are alive,” Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said of possible crash victims still in the subway cars. She said 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 the borough of Tláhuac. 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 wide area 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.
The collapse occurred on the newest line, Line 12, which 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 about poor design and construction emerged soon after Ebrard left office as mayor. The line had to be partly closed in 2013 so tracks could be repaired.
Ebrard called the accident a “terrible tragedy.”
“My solidarity with the victims and their families,” he tweeted. “Of course, 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