MEXICO CITY — The capital had been bracing for the catastrophe for years.

Ever because it opened practically a decade in the past, the latest Mexico City subway line — a heralded growth of the second largest subway system in the Americas — had been plagued with structural weaknesses that led engineers to warn of potential accidents. Yet aside from a quick, partial shutdown of the line in 2014, the warnings went unheeded by successive governments.

On Monday night time, the mounting issues turned deadly: A subway prepare on the Golden Line plunged about 50 toes after an overpass collapsed beneath it, killing at the least 24 folks and injuring dozens extra.

The accident — and the authorities’s failure to behave sooner to repair recognized issues with the line — instantly set off a political firestorm for 3 of the strongest folks in Mexico: the president and the two folks extensively believed to be front-runners to succeed him as leaders of the governing celebration and presumably, the nation.

The crash occurred at 10:22 p.m. on one of the latest stretches of monitor in the subway system, the Golden Line, additionally known as Line 12, which was inaugurated in 2012. Nearly 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 passengers experience Line 12 each day, officers mentioned.

Local residents had expressed concern about the structural integrity of the overpass, together with cracks in the concrete, after a robust earthquake devastated elements of the metropolis in September 2017.

Workers employed to function and preserve the subway system issued over a dozen complaints to move authorities over the years, which they mentioned have been all ignored.

“This could have been avoided,” mentioned Homero Zavala, a consultant of a union of Mexico City’s subway employees. “If us workers were really listened to by this administration, a lot of problems would be avoided.”

But authorities ignored the employees’ calls for correct upkeep, he added, and a few of those that spoke out — together with Mr. Zavala — have been fired.

Harrowing video of the accident confirmed the overpass all of a sudden collapsing in a bathe of sparks, sending up a cloud of particles as one of the prepare vehicles smashed down right into a car on the street under.

Emergency employees scrambled to entry the tilted prepare vehicles mendacity amid tangled wires and twisted steel, finally pulling dozens of folks from the wreckage and transporting greater than 70 folks to hospitals with accidents. Most of the 24 individuals who have been killed in the crash have been discovered useless on web site by rescue crews, officers mentioned.

Desperate kinfolk flocked to the scene for information of their family members, whereas others scoured metropolis hospitals and looked for any scrap of information on social media in hopes of discovering their members of the family.

“I’m looking for my son,” Marisol Tapia told reporters via sobs. “I can’t find him anywhere.”

Hours later, her 13-year-old son, Brandon Giovani Hernández Tapia, was nonetheless lacking.

“I went to all the hospitals and they say he’s not there,” she told reporters gathered at the crash web site on Tuesday. “The metro wasn’t built on its own — this flaw has been there for a long time and no one did anything.”

A complete of 79 injured folks had been taken to hospitals, three of whom later died, in response to Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City. Among these hospitalized have been three minors.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico has been criticized for imposing strict fiscal austerity measures which have starved the capital of the cash it must rebuild the troubled subway system whereas splurging on pet initiatives, together with practically 1,000 miles of railway stretching throughout southern Mexico.

Soon after taking workplace, he additionally stopped the development of a half-built airport {that a} rival celebration had began to construct for Mexico City. Even although the authorities had already spent billions of {dollars} on the airport, Mr. López Obrador scrapped it to start out constructing one other airport at a special location, reimagining the challenge in his identify.

Those investments have come at the expense of Mexico’s extra pressing infrastructure wants, together with fixing Mexico City’s water problems and its subway system, a key mode of transportation for the sprawling capital’s inhabitants of practically 22 million.

In the aftermath of Monday’s catastrophe, two of Mr. López Obrador’s closest allies got here underneath fast scrutiny: Ms. Sheinbaum, the capital’s mayor, and Marcelo Ebrard, the overseas minister who was mayor when the new subway line opened. Both are presumed to be prime contenders to run for the presidency when Mr. López Obrador, restricted to 1 time period, steps down in 2024.

The new line, which serves the working-class neighborhoods in the capital’s southeast, was constructed by Mr. Ebrard, who was mayor of Mexico from 2006 to 2012. He was accused by critics of dashing to complete development earlier than his time period concluded in an effort to bolster his political legacy. Troubles emerged instantly.

In simply the first month after the line was inaugurated, there have been 60 mechanical failures on trains or on tracks, in response to native media. Trains needed to decelerate over elevated stretches of monitor, as a result of engineers feared derailments. About a 12 months later, the metropolis was pressured to quickly shut down half of the $2 billion line for repairs.

Then after a robust earthquake struck in 2017, Mexico City transport authorities reported “a structural fault” in a single of the metro line’s supporting columns, which had affected its means to help heavy weight.

In 2018, senators from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party known as for Mexico City authorities to tell Congress about irregularities in the funding of the subway line’s growth. In an official celebration doc, the opposition lawmakers known as the Golden Line a “symbol of corruption and the misuse of public resources that prevailed during that administration.”

The lawmakers cited a congressional inquiry into the defective line which discovered that “the modifications to the basic engineering, to the original layout with the change of underground stations to elevated stations, severely affected the technical operating conditions” of the subway line.

Residents dwelling close to the scene of the accident mentioned authorities employees had fastened the column shortly after the earthquake. But they expressed doubt about the high quality of the reconstruction, after seeing what number of shutdowns and upkeep points the line had over the years.

Hernando Manon, 42, was strolling house from work Monday night time when he felt a tremor and heard a loud crash a number of hundred yards up the road.

“There was a rumbling and then sparks. The lights went out, and we didn’t know what happened. Then we heard the sirens,” Mr. Manon mentioned, standing only a few hundred yards from the web site of the accident. “As we approached, we realized that the subway had collapsed.”

Families rushed to the scene, he mentioned, hoping to search out their family members and yelling at the police demanding to be let via the cordon they’d erected round the wreckage.

Floodlights illuminated the web site of the collapse as search and rescue groups tried to search out survivors in the rubble. Ambulances, firefighters, the army and Mexico’s forensic division labored to search out survivors and establish the our bodies till daybreak.

A 2018-2030 Master Plan for the subway system detailed main backlogs to the upkeep of tracks and trains and warned that trains could possibly be derailed on the Golden Line except main repairs have been undertaken. It is unclear whether or not these wanted repairs have been ever carried out.

Since turning into mayor of the capital in 2018, Ms. Sheinbaum, who’s carefully aligned with the president’s pursuit of austerity, has presided over cuts to spending on the subway system.

For a 12 months, the metropolis didn’t appoint a director of infrastructure upkeep for the subway system. Ms. Sheinbaum solely crammed the position final week.

The metro has been inflicting troubles for Ms. Sheinbaum for years. In 2019, a number of folks have been injured in accidents attributable to mechanical issues on subway escalators, prompting the metropolis to research greater than 400 escalators in stations throughout the capital.

In March 2020, one individual was killed and at the least 41 others have been injured when two subway trains collided in Mexico City. Then in January, a fire ripped through the subway’s headquarters in downtown Mexico City, killing a police officer and sending 30 others to hospital.

At a information convention on Tuesday, each Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard confronted harsh questioning from reporters. Publicly, at the least, the two political heavyweights introduced a united entrance.

“We are in agreement to get to the bottom of this and work together to find the truth and know what caused this incident,” Ms. Sheinbaum mentioned.

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” Mr. Ebrard mentioned. “Like anyone else, I am subject to whatever the authorities determine, but even more so as a high-level official, as someone who promoted the construction of the line.”

Source link