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Team searching for boy says no sign of life, crews resume work

October 6, 1985

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A team of experts searching for a 9-year-old boy missing since the Sept. 19 earthquake said Saturday ″there is no possibility of life″ under the rubble believed to be covering the child.

The team used listening devices to try to pick up sounds after heavy equipment had removed some of the debris.

Julian Abed, an engineer working with the search team that spent more than two hours in the ruins Saturday afternoon, told reporters, ″Certainly there is no possibility of life.″

When he added, ″The possibility of life is very remote,″ he was asked again if there was any chance the child might be alive and he replied, ″Negative.″

Abed said workers would continue searching at the site with machinery and by hand, but the effort to reach the boy through tunneling into the debris would be suspended.

He said the listenening equipment the team had used was capable of detecting even a tiny pulsation.

Earlier in the afternoon, a crane and an earth mover that had been brought to the site to remove some of the chunks of concrete were pulled back and their engines turned off to allow the search team to listen for any sounds.

Immediately after Abed’s report, crews began shoveling frantically at the piles of concrete and plaster, working under lights in the chill night air.

One earth mover, small enough to maneuver through the narrow channel between the street and search site, removed the debris tossed back by the workers.

Dr. Emiliano Murillo, a cousin of the boy, said ″everyone is in agreement″ that the final rescue effort be undertaken with utmost speed.

Rescuers seemed pessimistic that the boy, Luis Ramon Navarrete Maldonado, could have survived the 16 days since the massive quake with little, if any, water or food.

″Every minute counts against us,″ said Mexico City Police Chief Ramon Mota Sanchez.

Shorty before dawn, Jorge Rangel, a Mexican engineer, said searchers had reached the site where it had been believed the boy was trapped with his grandfather, but no one was found. They then turned their attention to other locations.

Rangel said no water was found in the ruins of the old multifamily dwelling in the downtown district. The day before, another rescue worker said there was an old cistern in the building and water might have trickled down to the child.

Searchers have said they heard tapping sounds in response to questions asked of the child, leading them to believe the boy was alive.

They insisted the tapping sounds came from the boy, although his grandfather, Louis Maldonado, 57, also was believed trapped.

On Friday, one worker reported the boy had responded verbally to a question asked by searchers, but Mota Sanchez discounted the report, saying there had been no voice contact.

Still, the police chief said noises were heard from under the rubble at 6:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. EDT) Saturday.

Rescue workers appeared increasingly reluctant to describe the sounds they heard, and Mota Sanchez said later they could have come from falling stones or dirt.

An early morning landslide damaged the tunnels workers had dug wih picks, shovels and their hands to try to reach the child, Mota Sanchez said.

A crane then was brought to the site to tear back the concrete slabs and other rubble blocking the rescue efforts.

Mota Sanches said authorities did not want to risk the lives of the rescue workers in the tunnels.

The boy’s family has maintained a vigil at the site, where dozens of journalists have been since late Wednesday when it became known the family believed the child was still alive.

The last known survivors of the earthquake, which may have killed as many as 8,000 people according to unofficial estimates, were rescued about a week ago.

In London, a British rescue team that returned from Mexico Saturday said at least 50,000 people are still homeless and up to 5 million people are without water supplies.

Members of the 6-man team said they could not eat for three days after their arrival in Mexico City nearly two weeks ago because of the stench of death in the streets.

Meanwhile, reports in local Mexican newspapers Saturday said the Treasury Ministry told international bankers recently that, even before the earthquake, Mexico needed an additional $500 million this year and $4 billion in 1986.

The additional need was spelled out by the ministry in a message sent to banks asking for postponement of a $950 million principal payment on its foreign debt of $96.4 billion.

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