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Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 05:49 GMT
President pledges Mexico quake aid
Volunteers search for survivors in Colima
Rescue workers are still searching for survivors
Mexican President Vicente Fox has seen first hand scenes of devastation wrought by a major earthquake which rocked central and western Mexico on Tuesday.

The president toured Colima state by helicopter and on foot and promised to rebuild hundreds of homes that were destroyed in the disaster.

My mother was crushed to death, trapped

Victim's daughter in Colima
At least 25 people are known to have died and hundreds more were injured in the 10-second earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.8.

Emergency teams with sniffer dogs have been picking through rubble searching for survivors.

At least two aftershocks, measuring 5.8 and 5.3, shook the same area on Wednesday, sending people panicking into the streets.

Many residents have been sleeping in the open air, too frightened to go back into their homes.

Crushed

The worst-hit area was the city of Colima, where about half the victims died.

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The bed starting swaying from side to side

R Potter, Mexico

"They were crushed or they suffocated when walls and houses collapsed on top of them," said Colima Governor Fernando Moreno.

He said 10,000 homes had been damaged and 800 completely destroyed.

At least two people - an 85-year-old woman and an 18-month-old girl - died in neighbouring Jalisco state, while the quake was also felt in nearby Guadalajara and the capital, Mexico City.

The epicentre of the quake was centre about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) off Colima's Pacific coast.

A state of emergency has been declared in five cities.

Fox pledge

Touring Colima, President Fox promised quick aid for victims and damaged businesses.

Vicente Fox visiting Colima
Fox toured the area

"We are going to help with the building. Don't worry. Count on it," he told residents.

Armed soldiers were sent into Colima to help clear up wreckage, while rescue workers in yellow suits pulled the dead and injured out from beneath the rubble.

The BBC's Mexico correspondent, Nick Miles, says the authorities are keen to demonstrate their ability to mount a rapid rescue effort, after previous governments were criticised for inadequate responses to natural disasters.

Power and water services were cut by the earthquake, while hundreds of schools were shut amid fears of structural damage.

Lucky escape

In Colima, victims' relatives placed coffins in the street and set up makeshift altars with photographs of their loved ones.

"My mother was crushed to death, trapped. My brother and some other people pulled her out," said one woman near to the 83-year-old victim's casket.

Frightened residents in Colima
Many people are too frightened to go back indoors

Another woman said she was lucky to be alive.

"They pulled me out from the rubble.

"The house fell on me, my son got me out," she said, nursing bruises to her face and legs.

The earthquake revived memories of a tremor which devastated Mexico City in 1985, killing at least 10,000 people.

"I was putting my son to bed when everything started to move.

"We ran out with all our neighbours. I was just thinking of '85, the earthquake of '85," said Beatriz Reyes, from La Roma in Mexico City.

The capital emerged practically unscathed this time, suffering cracks in some of buildings.


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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Miles
"The number of dead is rising by the hour"
See also:

23 Jan 03 | Americas
22 Jan 03 | Americas
05 Jun 00 | Science/Nature
22 Jun 02 | In Depth
09 Aug 00 | Americas
28 Jan 99 | Science/Nature
10 Jan 03 | Country profiles
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


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