Mexico promises justice after subway collapse kills 24 by Reuters

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© Reuters. An overview of the damage after a rail bridge and train collapsed on a busy highway in this drone image taken from social media Mexico City, Mexico, May 4, 2021. Photo taken with a drone. INSTAGRAM @ CSDRONES / via REUTERS

By Daina Beth Solomon and Sharay Angulo MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will punish those responsible for the collapse of an overpass that killed at least 24 people and injured dozens when a train on the city’s newest subway line Mexico crashed onto a busy highway, the government said Tuesday. Accompanied by officials involved in the construction and maintenance of the elevated subway line that collapsed, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the investigation must be done quickly and that nothing should be hidden from the public. “There is no impunity for anyone,” he told a press conference. The city has been ruled since the turn of the century by former mayor López Obrador and his allies. The accident has raised broader questions about safety in one of the world’s busiest subway systems, which transports millions of people every day through an urban sprawl where more than 20 million people live. Firefighters who used heavy chains to stabilize the site lifted the bodies and survivors from the rubble before lowering a carriage hanging onto a truck in the afternoon. Some 79 people were injured, including three children, authorities said. A video on social media showed the moment when the flyover suddenly fell on a stream of cars near the Olivos station in the southeast of the city around 10:30 pm (0330 GMT Tuesday), kicking up clouds of dust and sparks. Monserrat, 26, said he was in the back of the train car when he heard a loud noise and the lights went out. “Everyone screamed and we fell on top of each other,” he told Mexican radio, speaking from the Belisario Domínguez hospital where he was receiving treatment for a rib injury. Outside the hospitals, family members became frustrated waiting for information on relatives, including some who were still missing. Angélica Cruz Camino, 31, said she hadn’t heard from her husband since he was driving home from work around 10:30 p.m. Monday. He visited several hospitals and was told that all the victims were identified, but had not yet located him Tuesday afternoon. “I called and called but he did not answer me. So it was my son who realized that the subway collapsed,” he said in front of the public hospital in Tlahuac. “I can’t find my husband.” ACCIDENTS It was the second serious accident this year, after a fire in a central control building left several lines without service for weeks after budget cuts. The overpass that collapsed was part of Line 12, an addition to the network that ended less than a decade ago and was long plagued by allegations of corruption and structural weakness. In 2014, just two years after opening, several of the line’s stations were closed for structural repairs. Four people living in the area told Reuters they observed support structures under the elevated tracks visibly shaking when trains crossed. Some recalled warnings about wet soil unsuitable for large construction. “Every time I saw the train, I saw the columns and the beams shake,” said Victor Lara, a daily passenger on the line. “They are not well done.” The investigations will be carried out by both the Attorney General’s Office and an external auditor, the government said. In 2020, two trains collided on another line on the network, killing one person and injuring dozens. López Obrador was mayor of the city in the early 2000s, and current Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard, who ran the city when Line 12 was built, are high-ranking members of his political movement. After a powerful earthquake in 2017, government data shows that there was also damage to the support columns of the line. Line 12 was built by a consortium of CARSO Infraestructura y Construcción, SAB de CV (CCICSA), a company controlled by the family of Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, Grupo ICA de México, and the Mexican unit of France’s Alstom (PA 🙂 SA . ICA shared a graphic with Reuters indicating that CCICSA was responsible for construction on the section of the line that collapsed, but declined to comment further. A CCICSA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the graph, but said in an earlier statement to Reuters that the company stood in solidarity with the families of the victims and the injured. “We are going to await the official opinion of the experts,” said CCICSA. Alstom said its participation in the consortium was limited to certain aspects, including power supply and testing of some electromechanical work. The company said it would assist investigating authorities “in any way necessary.” Sheinbaum said a beam appeared to have given way on the flyover, which he said was inspected last year. In a subsequent press conference, he said the collapse seemed to indicate a “structural failure.” “It is not possible to say categorically, but it seems that this is what happened,” Sheinbaum said. Ebrard said it was the “most terrible” accident to occur on the local transportation system and that he was willing to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. At the press conference with López Obrador, Sheinbaum and Ebrard faced questions from reporters about who should be held accountable. They both urged the public to allow investigators to do their work before seeking to apportion responsibilities. The opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party said an investigation and punishment should be carried out “wherever it leads.”