Blame starts to fly over Mexico earthquake collapses

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Allegations of negligent construction and oversight began to fly Monday, September 25, after deadly building collapses during Mexico's earthquake, as hope faded of finding more survivors of a disaster that killed more than 300 people.

The most-watched collapse site – a school where 19 children were killed last week – was built illegally on a site reserved for housing, according to local media reports.

Mexico City's mayor, the education minister and the top official for the district all traded blame after reports that the Enrique Rebsamen primary school operated using false documents.

"If confirmed, it would be very serious," Education Minister Aurelio Nuno told TV network Televisa, saying he had ordered an investigation.

The government has also come in for criticism from anguished families of people still missing after Tuesday's (September 19) earthquake.

"All they tell us are lies," said Anel Jimenez, 42, whose cousin Martin Estrada, a 30-year-old accountant, was inside a 7-story office building when it collapsed.

"No one from the government has come to show their face. They just send low-profile officials who always have clean helmets and shiny shoes. They just come to see what they can get out of other people's pain."

Political analysts said the quake underlined the government's lack of credibility, less than a year out from presidential elections. 

Just 35% of Mexicans approve of President Enrique Peña Nieto's response, according to a poll by the newspaper Reforma.

"Anger with the political class will be the political aftermath of the earthquake," said the Eurasia Group consulting firm.

"This shows the deeply rooted discontent which is likely to continue."

Rescue workers have now wrapped up their efforts at all but five sites in Mexico City, and the chances of pulling any more survivors from the rubble are dim.

But Peña Nieto has been careful to insist that authorities will not send in the bulldozers to start cleanup until rescuers are absolutely certain there are no more people in the rubble.

The building where Estrada's cousin was located, at 286 Alvaro Obregon Avenue in the trendy Roma neighborhood, is now the main search site. It crumpled into a tangled heap of concrete and steel with 132 people inside.

Twenty-nine people were rescued alive from the building in the first days, and 69 across the city.

But since late Friday, September 22, only bodies have been recovered.

Wary return to 'normal'

In Mexico City, people began to warily return to work and school.

After nearly a week of eerie quiet in the sprawling city of 20 million people, the capital's notorious traffic jams were starting to appear again.

Of the capital's 8,700 schools, 103 reopened Monday, the education ministry said. The rest were due to resume classes in the coming days, after undergoing architectural inspections.

The stakes are high for an already widely criticized government. After an earlier earthquake on September 7, all schools were given a clean bill of health.

But the city was shocked by the primary school collapse that killed 19 children and 7 adults.

An aftershock that shook Mexico City on Saturday, September 23, has made the country all the more jittery.

And the sense of vulnerability has only been heightened by the fact that Tuesday's earthquake struck on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that killed more than 10,000 people, the worst in Mexican history.

Mexico is particularly earthquake-prone, sitting atop five tectonic plates.

Furry survivor

A candlelight vigil for the victims of all 3 recent earthquakes is planned for October 15 in Mexico City's central square.

The latest death toll stands at 324 people – 186 of them in Mexico City.

The other deaths were recorded in the states of Morelos, Puebla, Mexico, Guerrero and Oaxaca. –