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Body Pulled From Hotel Rubble May Be Last of Quake Victims

October 13, 1995

MANZANILLO, Mexico AP) _ Grieving relatives wept as the body of a young receptionist was pulled Friday from the lobby of beachfront hotel. She is believed to be the last of 51 people known killed in a powerful earthquake.

Identified by an earring, Alma Angelica Martinez Zepeda, 21, was unearthed from tons of rubble by rescue workers a few feet from the entrance of the Costa Real Hotel in the Pacific tourist resort town of Manzanillo.

``She was running for the door,″ said the victim’s brother, Javier Partida Zepeda. ``She got so close to the exit.″

The 7.1 magnitude quake rocked 200 miles of Mexico’s western coastline on Monday, crumpling the eight-story hotel into a heap of crushed cement and cracked columns.

The quake destroyed hundreds of homes, cracked buildings and split roads and highways all the way north to the tourist haven of Puerto Vallarta. But the four-star Costa Real was the hardest hit.

At least 30 bodies were removed after five days of round-the-clock efforts by hundreds of rescue workers.

Police, the Red Cross, Mexico’s Armed Forces and volunteers, all wearing face masks against the stench of death and clouds of dust, moved in Friday with heavy machinery to clear the rubble of the luxury hotel.

Using shovels, picks, axes and drills and weathering some 30 aftershocks that have traumatized residents, the rescuers worked their way down, unearthing bodies as they went.

The bodies were kept for several days in a refrigerated truck until family members arrived to identify them.

There had been speculation that as many as 20 other bodies might be found, but rescuers later said they doubted they would find more.

Questions remain about the hotel’s structural safety. The hotel was damaged in the 1985 quake that killed more than 6,000 in Mexico City. Residents claim the hotel had been scheduled to be torn down but was instead repaired shoddily.

The records on the hotel’s remodeling, including the license authorizing its repair, have disappeared from city records, the city’s El Correo de Manzanillo newspaper reported Friday.

Hotel workers who survived Monday’s quake say they repeatedly complained about the hotel’s dangers, including cracks, tilting walls and gaping holes on top floor ceilings.

The earthquake has paralyzed many businesses in the port town, including loading docks and an electric plant that supplies 1,900 megawatts of energy for eight states. Thousands of people whose houses were damaged or destroyed in the quake now sleep in makeshift shelters.

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