Rescue Workers Scrambling to Rescue Trapped Boy
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Rescuers again heard signals this morning from a 9-year-old boy who has been buried alive for more than two weeks under 20 tons of rubble from a devastating earthquake that demolished an apartment building.
Rescuers, who continued their frantic search as dawn broke over the capital, said that less than five feet of concrete separated them from the boy. The boy has been sending signals by faint tappings, first on Sunday.
The workers called for nearly an hour of silence at the site this morning so sound equipment could pick up signals from inside. The last taps from the boy were heard at 8:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m. EDT), said Jorge Sanchez Zermeno, who is helping with the search.
Rescuers said they were picking up signs of life from only one person, although relatives said the boy was with his grandfather.
Since his distant signals were first heard Sunday, progress reaching the boy has been very slow. Rescuers say they must take a circuitous route to reach the child because of the way a wall had fallen around him.
Dr. Enrique Camacho Romero, a veterinarian in charge of one rescue team, said they last communicated with the child, calling his name into a microphone and listening for his knock, around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday (12:30 a.m. EDT today).
The boy’s tapping was faint because ″it is difficult for him to raise his hand,″ he said. Workers and doctors who visited the site said it appeared the child, Luis Ramon Mazerati, was too weak to talk.
A relief worker, Sergio Andreas Fernandez, said two parallel tunnels had been dug and the boy was thought to be between them. A Red Cross worker said earlier Wednesday that the operation was complicated because the floor had caved in around the boy.
As the operation wore on, workers complained about a lack of organization.
One worker, Rodolfo Soto Mayor, said there were too many searchers inside the building doing nothing. He said there were no specialists on hand to direct the operation.
Andreas Fernandez said: ″The problem is a lot of poeople want to be heroes for the TV. But a child’s life is not a game. They have to make an attack plan.″
Relatives said they were sure both the boy and his grandfather, buried with him when the Sept. 19-20 earthquakes ravaged the city, were alive. However, rescuers said there were signs of life from only one person.
Rescue crews raced to slash through mesh wire in the concrete with an acetylene torch as dogs pawed and sniffed the rubble. Ambulences stood at the ready to whisk him to a waiting helicopter and a military hospital.
Two Red Cross workers said they had found damp clothing in the tunnel near the boy’s apparent location. They said firemen had doused a fire in the building after the quake, and surmised that the boy and his grandfather squeezed water out of the clothing to slake their thirst.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday raised the number of Americans killed in the Sept. 19-20 quakes to 10. The latest victim was identified only as Ronald Patterson, and the embassy said his body was found in the collapsed Regis Hotel.
The embassy also released the names of 14 Americans believed to be missing and asked for help in finding them.
They are: Magdalene Armstrong, Jim and Debbie Buchan, Claudia Cuevas, Nathan Goldsmith, Rochelle or Michelle Gregory, Linda McRae, Daniele Nava, John Stanaway, Ricardo or Richard Perez, Carol Suerth, Gina Thompson, Margaret Villanueva and Sharry Zeitlan.
No ages or hometowns were given.
Relatives said that the boy and his grandfather, Luis Maldonado, 57, were the only ones in the family apartment when the first quake toppled hundreds of buildings and killed thousands of people.
The two were apparently trapped in their beds by the temblor, which measured 8.1 on the Richter scale.
Alberto Maldonado, 30, said Wednesday his father and nephew repeatedly tapped on the rubble in response to rescuers’ knocks.
″I know my father is alive,″ he told The Associated Press.
But the leader of the rescue effort, Carlos Malbran, said there were signs of life from only one person.
Rescue teams from France, West Germany, and Italy worked at the site until Sunday, Maldonado said. Mexican crews continued searching, and suddenly heard knocking sounds from the pair.
After the dramatic rescues of several babies from a collapsed hospital last week, most people abandoned hope any more survivors would be discovered.
A chihuahua puppy was found alive Tuesday afternoon among the debris of a 14-story apartment building in the Tlatelolco district, according to a television report Wednesday.
The first quake was followed by a lesser one measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, which measures earthquake intensity.
The government said 4,600 people died in the quakes and up to 3,500 were missing. Newspapers, keeping their own tallies, have put the figure much higher. El Universal said more than 7,000 people died in the quakes.