Rescuers digging through tons of concrete and twisted steel for the victims of a department store collapse Friday rescued six people and worked to free others believed alive. At least 11 people were killed and 43 injured.
Two women, a 2-year-old girl, a boy and girl both aged 8, and a 14-year-old girl were rescued during the morning. At least one survivor was still trapped more than 20 hours after the disaster, officials said.The 2-year-old "appeared to have been protected by some other people around her who are believed dead," said Lt. Victor Rodriguez of the city's police department.
Another rescued child, 8-year-old Jorge Mena Lire, was pulled from the rubble and taken on a stretcher to be examined by waiting doctors.
"The little boy kept crying that he wanted to come out. He was scared and he wanted a little ball and he wanted some refreshments," said fireman William Briggs.
The three-story Amigo Store collapsed Thursday afternoon during a storm that dumped more than 2 inches of rain in less than 30 minutes. Some witnesses said as many as 125 people sought shelter inside the downtown building before it crumbled, but Sgt. Dean Poos, a police spokesman, said only about 50 had been inside.
There was continuing confusion over the numbers and identities of people in the building. Officials first said that the wife and two children of Dr. Jose Carrera were alive in the rubble; later in the morning they were less certain.
Hundreds of rescuers working through the night removed debris with tractors, a crane and finally by hand, fearful of further injuring trapped survivors. Working through the night under portable floodlights, they used dogs and sensitive microphones to hunt for victims.
Later in the morning, hundreds of onlookers cheered as one woman was carried to safety and taken to a first aid station across the street.
Rescuers pulled from the rubble a 1-by-8 inch board with the words "Cristo es el camino" (Christ is the way) and said they believed one of the victims scribbled the message.
To reach trapped survivors, rescuers dug a makeshift 17-foot tunnel, and doctors were able to check their vital signs, said Johnny Economedes, head of one rescue team.
"It's very hard for them. They are in terrible pain, both emotional and physical," he said.
Further rescues of survivors could take hours, said Poos.
One of those saved was a 14-year-old girl who was wedged between two concrete slabs. "Every time there's movement, the slabs hit her in the head," said Pamela Downing of the city's public utilities board before she was freed.