In Mexico's earthquake, tragedies and miracles

MEXICO CITY: More than 300 people were killed in last week's earthquake that rocked Mexico – and behind the numeric toll are hundreds more poignant stories that survivors will always remember.

Here is a collection of accounts from the hard-hit capital Mexico City:

A sister's love

"We're here, the whole family. We will not move until we have you with us," Karina Ganoa cried out through a megaphone.

The young woman clung to the hope that her brother Erick might still be alive – even after he was buried under the rubble of an office building in the city's Roma district.

"Your wife is fine! Your parents are fine! Your siblings – you know that I love you," she shouted, her desperate message chilling viewers of the channel ForoTV as it was broadcast throughout Mexico.

But tragically, her 35-year-old brother was found dead Thursday, Mexican media reported.

Arms raised, rescuers held a minute of silence in his honour.

A final embrace

The lifeless bodies of Gabriel Morales and his wife Agueda Mendoza were found locked in an embrace, said their nephew Juan Carlos Williams, speaking on the day of their funeral.

Married for 23 years, the pair in their fifties had an 18-year-old daughter. They had met while working for a state-owned enterprise, he as a topographical engineer and she as a lawyer.

"They stayed together, united," the young man said. "That's what we'll remember."

Hope, then mourning

The sons of Maria Ortiz lived three days of anguish peppered with moments of hope.

Their 57-year-old mother, a housekeeper, was trapped in the rubble of an elegant yet dilapidated building in the chic Condesa neighbourhood.

For long hours, they hoped she had survived.

"She tried to go down but missed a few steps to reach the hallway before everything collapsed," said Leobardo Lopez Ortiz, 36, during his mother's wake over the weekend.

When they learned the building had fallen, the sons along with uncles and cousins left their neighbourhood further east in the hope they could rescue her, working through the rubble alongside military officers.

"Virtually all the steps of the staircase fell on her," said the eldest son Richard, 38.

Her lifeless body was finally found Friday. Despite the pain, Richard said he was trying to stay calm: "I want to believe that under the weight, she died on the spot."

A parent's nightmare

In the middle of the day, the Enrique Rebsamen school collapsed on students and their teachers, killing at least 19 children and seven adults.

Confusion reigned in the area surrounding the school as parents spent agonising hours waiting for news.

"No human can imagine the pain I feel at this moment," said Adriana Fargo the next day. The mother of a seven-year-old girl, she stared at the floor, her fists clenched.

Her spouse worked alongside rescuers, who cleared the rubble with extreme caution as they searched for potential survivors.

A week after the earthquake, it was still unclear whether Fargo's daughter had survived.

'The most wonderful feeling'

A marketing consultant, Lucia Zamora was on the third floor of a building that came crashing down on dozens of occupants.

After spending more than 30 hours under the rubble, the young brunette was finally able to escape the hellish scene she thought might be her end.

"I could hear screams, howls, people crying," she said.

Completely trapped, she and a colleague waited more than a day before hope came in the form of a man's voice: "Are you there?"

They were stuck another five or six hours.

"Finally, they told me to drag myself to a hole they had opened and I reached out. The rescuer took my hand," she said.

"It was raining when I got out, and the rain on my face was the most wonderful feeling of my life."

A narrow escape

"You could hear the windows break, cries; dust and stones fell on all sides," said a doctor, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, using the pseudonym Ignacio Perez.

His office was located next to his wife Zamora's. While Perez managed to escape, his wife was stuck inside.

"I wanted to go back into the building but my secretary held me back with all her might – she dug in her nails to stop me from entering," he said.

"I saw how the people in the building next door were being crushed," Perez said. "I saw the few people who managed to get out in time – they evacuated a man without legs, several of the dead and many people covered in dust."

When the thick cloud cleared, "I ran into my building and fell over my wife on the stairs," he said.

"I was in tears and she – very strong – told me, 'Stop, get up and let's go!'" — AFP