Nearly 220 Dead in Devastating Mexico Earthquake; Donald Trump, Pope Francis Call for God's Help

People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico on September 19, 2017.
People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico on September 19, 2017. | (Photo: Reuters)

A large magnitude–7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico on Tuesday, killing as many as 220 people, possibly more, as world and religious leaders plead for God's help.

USA Today reported on Wednesday that the country's civil defense chief said 217 people have died, though the death toll continues being revised.

Rescue workers worked through the night to search for survivors in Mexico City, with 40 percent of residents being left without power. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said that 44 buildings fell in the capital alone.

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Vatican Radio reported that Pope Francis shared his closeness to the people of Mexico following the second massive earthquake to hit the country in the space of two weeks. The magnitude–8.1 earthquake on Sept. 7 killed another 90 people in the southern coast.

"Here among you (in St Peter's Square) there are many Mexicans; the earthquake has caused casualties and material damage and in this moment of pain I express my closeness to the whole Mexican population," Francis said Wednesday.

"I ask Almighty God to welcome all those who lost their lives," he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."

The U.S. State Department added in a statement that America stands "ready to provide assistance should our neighbors request our help."

Christian children's relief group World Vision said one of its workers was in Mexico City during the quake.

"I heard this rumble in the walls, so I rushed downstairs," said Victor Martinez, World Vision emergency communications manager.

"This quake was shorter than Friday's (Sept. 7), but it felt much stronger. It felt as if the floor was jumping, like a vertical motion. People were really nervous. Then I drove to my nephew's school to make sure they were okay and saw large amounts of people exiting buildings to pick up their children that were in school. I saw several cracks in the streets on my way to the school," he added.

"As I listened to the local news, we were hearing about collapsed buildings, but I don't have certainty of what kind of buildings."

Silvia Novoa, World Vision's national director in Mexico, revealed that the charity group is deploying staff to assist with debris removal in the devastation, and also to coordinate with other agencies to provide aid for children and families.

"We will be working closely with the government to assess the situation not just in Mexico City but in the surrounding rural and urban areas. Our staff are on standby to respond with aid where it will be most needed," Novao said.

Pedro Serrano, 29, another volunteer rescue worker, separately told The Associated Press that rescuers "dug holes, then crawled in on our bellies" to reach survivors at a collapsed school.

"We managed to get into a collapsed classroom. We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults — a woman and a man," he shared.

Serrano added that 25 bodies were recovered from Escuela Enrique Rebsamen, and all but four of them were children.

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