Efforts to aid victims of Mexico’s earthquakes continue as officers battle the elements and continued rainfall weeks after they occurred.
The relatives of 50 missing persons who are believed to have been inside the building at the time have set up camp outside the skeletal remains of a six-story building, waiting anxiously for news and holding signs with photos of their loved ones.
The work "is slow because we have to remove tiles and there is only one crane," Captain Juan Carlos Peñas, head of the Army's Emergency Military Unit, told EFE. "It is what is left, there is nothing else, there is no other option," he added.
"The only work that is being done is debris on the top," said the captain, explaining that workers will continue the process one level at a time.
However, the continued rainfall has slowed the rescue process considerably, adding to the difficulty and danger of the task for rescue team members.
"There are sliding of tiles and aside from that, the protocols say that when there is heavy rain you have to avoid being at the top to prevent slipping," Peñas explained.
The captain reported that rescue teams have concentrated efforts around tunnels amid the rubble, such as stairwells and other normal escape routes, where "people were thought to be trapped."
"Once the work is finished and no other people are found or the majority of people have been taken out of the escape routes, the next thing do is remove the tiles and see where (the rest of the people) are," the captain said.
Rescue teams recovered the bodies of two victims in Mexico City early Saturday evening, a man and woman, raising the death toll to 360. Across the country, the number of fatalities soared with 219 in the capital, 74 in Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 15 in the state of Mexico, 6 in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.
The earthquake which rocked Mexico on Sept. 19 toppled buildings throughout the region, hitting the Richter scale at a magnitude of 7.1. Valentin Onate, Mexico City’s governmental representative, said 40 bodies have been recovered from what remains of a six-story building, 24 men and 16 women, two of which have yet to be identified.
Reports from Mexico City’s head of government, Miguel Angel Mancera, during a news conference showed that four of the 25 earthquake victims to be hospitalized remain in critical condition, while five others were discharged Saturday.
The official went on to state that 30 shelters have been erected throughout the city and housed as many as 1,028 people on Friday night, while reports show that 31,000 have visited the relief center since the day of the earthquake.
According to the government's first preliminary estimates, reconstruction of historic homes, schools and buildings damaged by the three earthquakes which hit Mexico last month will cost more than 38,000 million pesos (about US$2.1 billion).
During a visit to the city of Taxco Sa on Saturday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said his government is looking to "rebuild the houses by the beginning of next year."
The "greatest challenge" at this time, he said, is to finish removing the debris and raising the houses that have been declared uninhabitable prior to reconstruction.