Mexico City (AFP) – Workers in Mexico City began tearing down an elementary school Monday that collapsed in a devastating earthquake last year, killing 19 children and seven adults.
Demolition workers from the capital city’s public works ministry put up protective plywood barriers and began removing rubble from the collapsed Rebsamen elementary school, which was thrust into the world spotlight following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake on September 19, 2017.
Attention initially fixated on the private elementary school when reports emerged that a young girl was trapped alive inside — information that turned out to be false.
Later, the school returned to the headlines when news surfaced that its owner — today on the run from the law — had illegally built a luxury apartment for herself on top of the structure, complete with marble floors and a jacuzzi.
Experts concluded the addition, built without construction permits, had contributed to the school’s collapse.
A lawyer representing families of victims killed in the collapse — some of whom are suing local authorities — said the initial phase of the demolition would only remove rubble affecting neighboring properties, without touching the parts of the school that are at the center of the legal dispute.
“We are starting by cordoning off the zone and carrying out studies to determine how to remove the concrete slabs,” Mexico City public works spokesman Oscar Jimenez told AFP.
Parents of some of the children killed at the school blame corruption by local authorities for its collapse, including Mexico City Mayor-elect Claudia Sheinbaum.
Sheinbaum, the capital’s first elected woman mayor, was the top official at the time for the southern district where the school is located, Tlalpan.
She denies responsibility for the construction irregularities at the school.
The earthquake killed 369 people and leveled dozens of buildings, mostly in Mexico City. It struck on the anniversary of another devastating quake in 1985 that killed more than 10,000 people.
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