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First Lady Goes to Mexico, Gives $1 Million Quake Aid

September 23, 1985|From Reuters

MEXICO CITY — Nancy Reagan flew into Mexico City today to visit earthquake survivors, but she called off a visit to a collapsed building where people may be buried alive because of the danger of a gas leak explosion.

The First Lady, wearing a yellow cardigan, was greeted by U.S. Ambassador John Gavin and his wife, Constance, as well as by Ana Iturbide de Sepulveda, wife of Mexican Foreign Minister Bernardo Sepulveda.

They traveled by motorcade to the presidential residence at Los Pinos to visit Paloma de la Madrid, wife of the Mexican president. She handed over a $1-million government check to aid quake victims.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said the First Lady would visit a shelter for people made homeless by the quake, as well as a Red Cross hospital and the U.S. Embassy on the tree-lined Reforma Boulevard.

Visit Too Dangerous

But a planned visit to the Nuevo Leon apartment building, which crumbled to the ground in the initial quake Thursday, was called off. Rescue work is still going on at the building, where a hundred or so bodies have been found. About 1,200 people are thought to be still inside, but most are now feared dead.

The embassy spokesman said there was apparently some danger of a gas leak at the site.

As the First Lady flew in from Washington aboard a special aircraft, the Mexican Health Ministry said the final death toll from the quake was not likely to exceed 5,000, although Red Cross officials and police continued to insist that up to 12,000 may have died.

Red Cross workers said more than 2,800 bodies have been dug out of the rubble, at least 400 people have been found alive, about 17,000 were hospitalized and up to 10,000 people were unaccounted for in Mexico City and elsewhere.

750 Buildings Leveled

More than 750 buildings were razed in Mexico City when two earthquakes, measuring 7.8 and 7.2 respectively on the Richter scale, ripped through the country on Thursday and Friday. Many thousands were made homeless and thousands more had their livelihood wiped out when their homes, workplaces and businesses were destroyed in the world's most populous capital.

With communications inside the nation still cut and links to the outside world limited to telex lines, reports from provinces remained sketchy five days after the first quake, which wrought the most severe damage.

Relatives of the missing today flocked to the capital's main baseball stadium, turned into a makeshift morgue. After receiving on-the-spot vaccinations, they were allowed to review long lines of corpses.

Troops patrolled the ruins and reinforced security cordons around abandoned shops and offices to guard against looters.

Hopes have almost vanished of finding more people alive in the rubble, and the authorities began turning their attention to the 180,000 people affected in various ways by the quake.

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