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Eleven die after collapse of church roof in Mexico

03 October 2023


Rescue workers search for survivors, on Monday, after the roof of a church collapsed during mass in Ciudad Madero, Mexico, on Sunday

Rescue workers search for survivors, on Monday, after the roof of a church collapsed during mass in Ciudad Madero, Mexico, on Sunday

THREE children and eight adults were killed on Sunday afternoon when the roof of a Roman Catholic church in Mexico fell in during a baptism.

The incident occurred at Santa Cruz, Ciudad Madero, a town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. At least 60 people were treated for injuries, including a four-month-old baby. Local people helped the rescue effort carried out by the National Guard, police, state civil defence, and the Red Cross.

In an interview with Radio Fórmula on Monday, the priest conducting the baptisms, Fr Ángel Vargas, described moving from pew to pew, baptising children, when a tie-beam gave way, and the church roof crashed down on dozens of people, Associated Press reported. “Some people could get out, and others, no,” he said. “It is a terrible experience, and it has been even worse because of the fact that people were lost.”

He told the BBC: “They came to search for heaven for the little ones, and found eternity. I want the families to find peace. All of this is unfathomable.”

The collapse happened just minutes after the main Sunday mass, attended by as many as 300 people, most of whom had left the church. Fr Pablo Galván, the celebrant at the mass, was outside when the incident took place.

He said: “The roof just simply and plainly collapsed, like an implosion, like when you crush a can. . . It fell; there was no time to do anything. It was like two seconds. We still can’t understand what happened.”

The Governor of Tamaulipas, Américo Villarreal, said that no problems with the church had been reported previously. In an online message on Monday, he wrote: “Let us raise a prayer together for those who lost their lives, for the injured and their families.”

An online statement from the diocese of Tampico, reported by The Guardian, said: “From underneath the rubble, thanks to divine providence and the work of the rescue teams, people have been pulled out alive! Let’s keep praying!”

“We still don’t know what caused [the collapse],” a spokesperson for the diocese, Nestor Javier Lopez, told the newspaper Reforma. “We hope that authorities do their job, and let us know what happened.”

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