International News

Mexico church: Ten dead after Tamaulipas roof collapse

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By Alex Binley & Vanessa Buschschlüter

At least 10 people, including three children, were killed when the roof of a church collapsed in northern Mexico.

The collapse happened on Sunday afternoon local time as around 100 people were attending a baptism at Santa Cruz church in Ciudad Madero.

Sixty people were injured, at least two of them seriously, and dozens were trapped underneath the rubble.

Local residents rushed to the building with shovels and pickaxes to try to free those trapped.

Search and rescue teams have since arrived at the scene and two cranes are on site to remove the debris.


Image caption,

Locals rushed to the scene to try and free those trapped; they were joined by specialist rescue teams

The governor of Tamaulipas has said that all of those missing have been accounted for. Rescue workers used thermal imaging cameras to ensure no one remained under the rubble.

It is not yet clear what may have caused the collapse but the mayor of Ciudad Madero said it was probably due to “structural failures”.

Ángel Vargas, the priest who was celebrating the baptisms when the collapse occurred said that a day of celebration had turned into a tragedy.

“They came to search for heaven for the little ones and found eternity. I want the families to find peace. All of this is unfathomable.”

Local journalist Franc Contreras told the BBC World Service’s Newsday programme that the collapse happened at a key moment in the service.

“People were lined up to take the communion – of course that’s sort of the climax of the Catholic Mass – and that’s when the roof came down on top of them; bricks, concrete, and of course steel support structures coming down on top of the people,” he said.

He added that according to Red Cross officials the roof came down on pews in the church, allowing the possibility that anyone trapped there could survive in air pockets.


Image caption,

Photos from inside the church show the roof on top of the pews

One of the survivors described her ordeal on social media.

Josefina Ramírez said she had been attending the baptism of her godchild when the roof came down.

“Thank God, I’m alive (…) I feared I would not see my beautiful family again (…) I don’t know how we got out,” she wrote.

Local media reported that one of the people trapped had managed to send a WhatsApp message which helped rescuers to find him.

Among those who died was reportedly a toddler and a couple with their eight-year-old son, Mexican newspaper Milenio reported.

The bishop of the diocese of Tampico, where the church is located, said he was praying for the victims.