The death toll from the collapse of a Mexico City metro viaduct rose to 24, as crews worked to clean up the wreckage – and anger grew over the latest in a series of disasters that has hit one of the largest mass transit systems in the world.
Officials declined to speculate on the cause of Monday night’s disaster that sent two cars crashing into traffic on the street below. The city’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has promised a full investigation by an outside company and the federal prosecutor’s office – despite standing alongside the ailing metro manager Florencia Serranía.
“We are going to find out the truth. We’re not going to hide anything. This is the request that we make to the prosecutor’s office. There will be responsibility, ”she said at a tense press conference on Tuesday.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for a swift and open investigation.
“There is no impunity for anyone,” he told reporters. The Mexican capital has been ruled since 2000 by former mayor López Obrador and his allies.
Security camera footage showed the overpass collapsing onto a busy street around 10:30 p.m. Monday evening, leaving one of the wagons precariously hanging down.
“We only heard a thunderous noise and everything started to fall apart,” a survivor identifying herself as Mariana told El Universal newspaper. “We were sent flying and hit the ceiling.”
Onlookers and passers-by rushed to remove the survivors from the wreckage. Adolfo Ángel Ibarra, 21, was traveling in a small bus when he heard the roar of the crumbling concrete and turned to see a cloud of dust.
Running towards the scene, he and other passers-by forced open the door and pulled stunned survivors out of the wreckage. “I was scared, but I also felt like a hero. I felt like someone we needed, ”Ibarra said from the stage near Los Olivos metro station.
Emergency medics and firefighters worked through the night to free the trapped passengers, and 79 people were taken to hospital.
Families of missing passengers have joined the desperate search at the scene and pleaded for information in overwhelmed hospitals.
A mother identified as Marisol Tapía interrupted a press conference held Tuesday morning by an opposition party at the scene of the crash to demand answers.
“We have been looking all night and no one knows where he is,” Tapía cried as she asked for an answer on the fate of her 13-year-old son Giovani Hernández Tapía.
Serranía said the collapsed metro line – which opened in 2012 – was last inspected in January 2020.
The collapse follows a series of calamities in the metro, including trains that crashed and a fire ravaged the system’s central command center.
It also performed on Line 12 – the “Golden Line” – which opened with fanfare as an upgrade to Mexico City’s metro, but was beset by closures and construction issues.
Mexican social media has resurfaced with old tweets and messages from people warning that something was wrong with the elevated subway line.
“I always said that one day it was going to collapse,” said Paulina García, 45, a resident of the accident area in the southeast of the Tláhuac district.
“There have been problems since it opened,” she said, as a nearby crane lifted one of the fallen cars so it could be transported.
Homero Zavala, leader of the metro workers’ union, said four of the lines were “time bombs” due to deteriorating infrastructure. “This accident… could have been avoided if they listened to the workers,” he told reporters.
Line 12 carried around 350,000 passengers daily from the semi-rural south-eastern district of Tláhuac to a south-central part of the capital. Its inauguration was heralded as a long overdue step forward for a metro system founded in 1969, but chronically underfunded and plagued by dilapidated infrastructure.
Line 12 was supposed to be the crowning glory of former mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who stepped down in 2012 and is now foreign minister – and a close ally of the president. Political observers see Ebrard and Sheinbaum as rivals in the succession of López Obrador, who resigns in 2024.