At least nine dead and 50 injured as church roof collapses in Mexico

 (AP)
(AP)

At least nine people were killed and 50 injured when the roof of a church collapsed in Northern Mexico.

Up to 30 parishioners were believed to have been trapped in the rubble when the roof caved in at Santa Cruz church in Ciudad Madero.

Police in the coastal state of Tamaulipas said around 100 people were at a Sunday mass at the time. Children were also being baptised.

The state security spokesman’s office said late on Sunday that nine people had been confirmed dead from the collapse, which it described as likely being caused by “a structural failure.”

Police said three children were among the dead in the city about 310 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.

The diocese later posted a list of about 50 people who had been hospitalized as a result of the accident.

 (Tamaulipas Civil Protection/AFP)
(Tamaulipas Civil Protection/AFP)

They included a four-month-old baby, three five-year-olds and two nine-year-olds. There was no immediate information on their conditions.

Bishop José Armando Alvarez of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tampico said the roof caved in while parishioners were receiving communion.

“We lament the painful loss of people who were there celebrating the baptism of their children,” Alvarez wrote.

At the same time, there were signs of hope. “From underneath the rubble, thanks to Divine Providence and the work of the rescue teams, people have been pulled out alive!” Alvarez’s diocese wrote in a statement posted on it social media accounts. “Let’s keep praying!”

He also called on anyone who had wood to donate to bring it to the church, apparently to shore up the roof while rescue teams crawled inside.

Photos published by local media showed what appeared to be a concrete and brick structure, with parts of the roof fallen almost to the ground. Security camera footage from about a block away showed the unusual, gabled roof simply collapsed downward.

 (AP)
(AP)

“At this time, the necessary work is being performed to extract the people who are still under the rubble,” Alvarez said in a taped message. “Today we are living through a very difficult moment.”

Video distributed by the state civil defence office showed the outer edges of the roof propped up by short wooden blocks.

It also showed initial efforts to lift off parts of the collapsed roof closer to the ground, in the centre of the church, with a crane. But the office said the efforts to lift roof sections were abandoned because of the danger that a chunk of the now-crumbling slab might fall back and endanger any survivors.

The video described how officials had reverted to manual rescue efforts, apparently sending rescuers under the slab with wood props or hydraulic jacks to reach those trapped underneath.

Specially trained dogs also were sent into the rubble to detect survivors.

The civil defence office said the dogs did not initially appear to detect signs of survivors, so an older method was implemented that had been used in past earthquakes: sending rescue teams into the rubble to shout and listen for signs of any response.

Building collapses are common in Mexico during earthquakes, but the National Seismological Service did not report any seismic activity strong enough to cause such damage at the time of the collapse. Nor was there any immediate indication of an explosion.