A subway overpass collapsed late Monday in Mexico City, sending the cars of a passenger train plunging to the ground and killing at least 23 people, including children, the city’s mayor said.
At least 70 others were injured, officials said, and emergency workers scrambled to a scene where tilted train cars lay amid tangled wires and twisted metal. As dawn approached, a crane was holding one car in the air as emergency workers checked it to see whether any passengers remained trapped.
Claudia Sheinbaum, the city’s mayor, told reporters early Tuesday that there were minors among the dead and that 49 people had been transferred to hospitals with injuries.
The crash occurred on Line 12 of the subway system near the Olivos Station in southeastern Mexico City, Mexico’s civil protection agency said in a post on Twitter. Local news reports said the accident had occurred between the Olivos and Tezonco stations.
The crash occurred about 10:25 p.m., La Jornada newspaper reported. The Associated Press quoted Ms. Sheinbaum as saying that a support beam on the overpass had collapsed as the train went by.
“At this moment, we can’t speculate about what happened,” she added. “There has to be a deep investigation, and whoever is responsible has be held responsible.”
In the meantime, she said, Line 12 would remain closed as the authorities investigated the cause of the accident.
Photos and videos of the crash released by the government showed at least one orange-and-yellow subway car hanging from an overpass. Others showed rescue personnel extracting injured passengers from a tilted subway car by helping them down from ladders.
Ms. Sheinbaum said that a motorist in a car trapped by the crash had been rescued alive.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister, called the crash a “terrible tragedy” in a Twitter post late Monday. “Of course, the causes should be investigated and the responsibilities for it defined.”
Mexico City Metro warned residents to avoid the area.
Hours after the collapse, rescue workers were still scrambling early Tuesday to free people trapped inside the tangle of crushed metal and collapsed concrete, which was all that still stood at the site where the train overpass had crumbled.
Dozens searched carefully among the debris, some using metal ladders to climb through the windows of the train cars to pull people to safety. A number of people were taken from the scene on stretchers as the police, emergency workers and some volunteers worked through the night. The rescues had been halted briefly around midnight as the train dangled precariously, but were restarted after it was secured.
A tearful mother, identified only as Elísabet, told the television channel Azteca Noticias that she was searching for her 13 year-old son, who had been out with others in the city center and was on the metro, about to come home. “I spoke five minutes ago with him,” she said between sobs. “He said that he was about to arrive.” She begged the authorities to “give me back my son.”
After the crash, dozens of relatives crowded around the crash site, voicing their frustration to local reporters about not being able to get closer and help get their loved ones out of the debris.
Immediately after the crash, a video showed members of the community, many wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, assisting the injured. Three men could be seen carrying another young man away from the site of the wreckage. Another man hobbled from the scene, bracing himself on another man’s arm.
Others handed out water and baby wipes to help clean the faces of those who had rushed into help.
Shortly before 2 a.m., the Brigada de Rescate Topos Tlaltelolco said that at least five people remained trapped and that search and rescue workers were using a 200-ton crane to assist their efforts. But a short time later, government’s civil protection authorities indicated that there were no longer people trapped in the rubble.
Images from the scene showed the crane lifting one of the subway cars slightly from the collapsed roadway below to allow emergency workers to continue searching for anyone who was injured or trapped.
Speaking from the scene, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that one person had been pulled from a car trapped on the roadway below the collapsed rail line. At least 70 injured people had been taken to the hospital.
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The subway system in Mexico City, the country’s sprawling capital, handles more than four million passengers a day and is the second-largest in the Americas, after New York City’s. And when it was inaugurated in 1969, decorated with Aztec artifacts and Maya-style friezes, it was the pride of a nation.
But in recent years it has become a symbol of urban decay.
There was concern over the integrity of the elevated tracks and support columns on the stretch of tracks where Monday’s accident occurred after a powerful earthquake hit Mexico in September 2017.
The elevated infrastructure on the subway line — known as Line 12, or the Golden Line — was damaged, El Universal newspaper reported.
Later that month, some local residents told El Universal that they feared that the damaged infrastructure might collapse. The newspaper reported at the time that a column between the Olivos and Nopalera stations had suffered structural damage. It also reported that engineers were to conduct an ultrasound survey of the reinforcing steel in 300 columns along Line 12’s elevated portion.
It was not immediately clear what work had been done to address the safety concerns. But there has been a broad decline of the system in recent years.
The Golden Line, where Monday’s accident occurred, was opened in 2012 and is the newest in the system. Yet from the outset, it has been beset by problems.
Trains running over elevated parts of the track had to slow down for fear they may derail. And just 17 months after the $2 billion line was inaugurated, the city suspended service on a large part of it.
Service was later restored, but concerns about the system as a whole have grown.
Last month, one of the capital’s 12 subway lines shut down after a track fire. And in January, a fire ripped through the metro’s downtown headquarters, killing a police officer and sending 30 others to hospital with smoke inhalation. Six subway lines were temporarily knocked offline.
Opposition parties blamed a lack of maintenance for the inferno, and the conservative National Action Party filed a criminal complaint against Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and the head of the Mexico City subway.
In March 2020, one person was killed and at least 41 others were injured when two subway trains collided in Mexico City. Ms. Sheinbaum said at the time that one of the trains had apparently backed into the other. Video of the wreckage showed that the force of the collision had left one of the trains stuck on top of the other, according to Reuters.
The next month at the Misterios station, a railway coupler — a mechanism used for joining train cars — fractured en route to its destination. Although that incident resulted in no deaths, workers asked for more safety measures, El Universal reported.
Another derailment in 2018 sent shock waves through a suburb of Mexico City. A train carrying cargo ran off the tracks, and one of its cars crashed into a house, killing five people.
The most recent serious accident occurred in 2015, when a collision between two trains left 12 people dead. In 1975, another train collision at the Viaducto station killed 31 people and left more than 70 injured, according to El Universal.
An eight-second video that captured the moment of collapse showed moderate traffic flowing on either side of the suspended bridge when suddenly it cracked and buckled in a burst of concrete and sparks, falling between the lanes of cars.
Another video taken a few minutes later showed a handful of police officers and volunteers using construction ladders set up against the side of the train to help people down — including several who were hobbling and nearly unable to walk.
The crash was so sudden, witnesses said, that there was hardly time to scream.
One moment, passengers were zipping along an elevated stretch of track on Mexico City’s Golden Line, and then the ground fell out from beneath them.
“It happened really suddenly,” one woman told the Mexican newspaper El Universal. “I fell into everyone else. Everyone fell into everyone.”
Surveillance footage showed the moment the overpass collapsed directly onto the street, sending the train plunging to the ground in a cloud of dust and debris.
“I heard an explosion — we thought it was a stationary gas tank,” one resident, Eduardo García, told Univision Noticias, a Spanish-language media outlet, adding that he had been playing soccer at the time. Mr. García said he had immediately begun running, before seeing several ambulances.
Enrique Bonilla, 57, who was on the train at the time of the crash, told the television network Televisa that he had felt a sudden movement and heard a loud sound as the bridge was collapsing. He said that people had fallen on top of one another, and that he had vomited. Mr. Bonilla was able to grab onto a pole and, afterward, to escape through a broken window, he said, sitting on the ground after the crash.
It was all over in seconds, Mr. Bonilla added. “Thank god I came out alive.”
SOURCE : THE NEW YORK TIMES