An elevated portion of the Mexico City metro collapsed late Monday, sending a subway car plunging into a crowded boulevard, killing at least 23 people and injuring about 70, according to city authorities. Rescuers spent hours searching for someone that could be stuck in a vehicle that had been left hanging from the overpass.
However, those attempts were halted early Tuesday due to safety issues for those operating around the precariously hanging driver. A crane was brought in to assist with the stabilisation.
“We don’t know if they are alive,” Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said of the passengers who might have been stuck inside the car after one of the city’s busiest subway crashes.
Sheinbaum had previously stated that someone had been rescued alive from a vehicle that had been stuck on the ground below. She stated that 49 of the wounded were hospitalised, with seven in critical condition and awaiting surgery.
“Unfortunately, there are children among the dead,” Sheinbaum said, without mentioning how many.
The overpass in the Tlahuac borough was about 5 metres (16 feet) above the road, but the train ran over a concrete median strip, which evidently reduced the number of fatalities for vehicles on the road below.
Sheinbaum said that “a support beam gives way” when the train went over it.
After its inception half a century ago, the Mexico City Metro has seen at least two major injuries. A collision between two trains at the Tacubaya station in March of last year killed one passenger and wounded 41 others. A train that did not stop on time at the Oceania station in 2015 collided with another, injuring 12 people.
Hundreds of police officers and firefighters cordoned off the area Tuesday as worried families and friends of those suspected to be on the train clustered outside the security perimeter. About the fact that the coronavirus situation in Mexico City remained critical, they huddled together as they awaited news.
Adrián Loa Martnez, 46, said his mother called him to say his half-brother and sister-in-law were driving when the overpass collapsed and a beam crashed onto their motorcycle.
His sister-in-law was saved and taken to a hospital, but his half-brother José Juan Galindo was crushed and he thought he was dead, according to him. “He is down there now,” he told reporters, referring to the location.
Gisela Rioja Castro, 43, was searching for her 42-year-old husband, Miguel ngel Espinoza. Her husband, she said, would still take the train after finishing work at a supermarket, but he never returned home and had stopped answering his phone. She instinctively expected the worse when she learned what had happened, but she has received no clarification from the authorities.
“No one knows anything,” she declared.
The collapse happened on the newest subway line in Mexico City, Line 12, which extends well into the city’s south side. It, like many of the city’s dozen subway lines, operates underground through the city’s more central areas, but then runs on elevated concrete platforms on the city’s suburbs.
The collapse may be a significant setback for Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who served as mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012, when Line 12 was installed. Allegations regarding the subway line’s inadequate architecture and layout surfaced shortly after Ebrard left office as mayor. In 2013, the line had to be partially shut down so that the tracks could be fixed.
“What occurred today on the Metro is an awful tragedy,” Ebrard wrote on Twitter.
“Of necessity, the causes must be examined and those responsible identified,” he wrote. “I reiterate that I am completely available to authorities to participate in whatever way is required.”
It was unclear if the subway line may have been impacted by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in 2017.