Mexican president promises full probe into deadly metro overpass accident

Rescuers work at a site where an overpass for a metro partially collapsed with train cars on it at Olivos station in Mexico City, Mexico May 3, 2021.
Rescuers work at a site where an overpass for a metro partially collapsed with train cars on it at Olivos station in Mexico City, Mexico May 3, 2021. © Luis Cortes, Reuters

Mexico will launch a full investigation into the cause of an overpass collapse that plunged a train on Mexico City’s newest metro line onto a busy road below, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens more, Mexico's president vowed on Tuesday.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the investigation should be done quickly and that nothing should be hidden from the public.

"There's no impunity for anyone," he told a news conference.

The crash has raised questions about safety on one of the world's busiest metro systems, which spreads across an urban sprawl home to over 20 million people.

Firefighters using heavy chains to stabilise the site pulled bodies and survivors from the wreckage. Some 79 people were injured, including three children, authorities said, in one of the worst accidents to strike Mexico City metro since it was inaugurated in 1969.  

Video on social media showed the moment when the overpass plummeted onto a stream of cars near the Olivos station in the southeast of the city at around 10:30 pm (0330 GMT on Tuesday), sending up clouds of dust and sparks.

Workers hoisted one of two train cars dangling from the bridge using several cranes and slowly lowered it close to the ground. Twisted pieces of metal could be seen inside.

Anxious relatives gathered at the site awaiting news of those believed to have been aboard the train.

Efrain Juarez said that his son was in the wreckage.

"My daughter-in-law called us. She was with him and she told us the structure fell down over them," he told AFP.

Another man who did not give his name said that his brother was among those trapped.

"He came with his wife and they managed to get her out, but he was crushed there and we don't know anything," he said.

'Structure was shaking'

Dozens of emergency workers were seen trying to rescue victims from the carriages.

But the work later had to be paused because of fears the wreckage was too unstable.

"For now the rescue has been suspended because the train is very weak. A crane is coming to continue" the work, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

A car was trapped under the rubble, but a person inside managed to get out alive, she said.

The police, who brought rescue dogs, urged onlookers to move back in case of falling debris.

"Suddenly I saw that the structure was shaking," an unidentified witness told the Mexican television network Televisa.

"When the dust cleared we ran... to see if we could help. There were no screams. I don't know if they were in shock," she added.

Medics were seen taking the injured away on stretchers.

The casualties were rushed to different hospitals in the city, Sheinbaum said.

Lucky escape

One man, Jose Martinez, told reporters that he had a miraculous escape because he was unable to leave work in time to catch the ill-fated train.

"I was saved by like 15 minutes. It's good that nothing happened to me," he said.

The Mexico City subway has 12 lines and carries millions of passengers each day.

Line 12, where the accident struck, was inaugurated in October 2012 by then mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who is now foreign minister.

Writing on Twitter, Ebrard offered his cooperation with the investigation to establish the causes and responsibility for what he called a "terrible tragedy."

In one of the worst accidents on the network, two metro trains rammed into each other leaving 23 dead and 55 injured in October 1975.

The latest incident comes just over a year after two subway trains collided in Mexico City, leaving one dead and around 40 injured as panicked passengers escaped through dense smoke.

In another incident in January of this year, one person died and 29 suffered smoke inhalation injuries in a fire in the metro's control center.

The latest accident comes at a time when Mexico is struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 217,000 people dead in the country -- one of the world's highest tolls.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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