Mexico says last body found in rubble after quake

Members of rescue team place a blue tarp and a Mexican flag as they remove the last body trapped under rubble of a collapsed building. PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Emergency workers pulled the last victim's body on Wednesday (Oct 4) from the rubble of Mexico's Sept 19 earthquake, officials said, as the country turned to rebuilding after a disaster that claimed more than 360 lives.

After 15 days of searching, workers found the final victim's body beneath the mountain of rubble left by the collapse of a seven-storey office building in Mexico City's hard-hit Roma district, tweeted the interior ministry official overseeing the effort, Deputy Secretary for Human Rights Roberto Campa.

"Based on lists provided by family members and witness accounts from people who worked (in the buildings that collapsed), as well as the testimony of friends and others, we no longer expect to find anyone else," Mexico City Mayor Angel Mancera said in a TV interview.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said the country was now focusing on rebuilding after the quake and another on Sept 7 that together caused an estimated US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) in damage.

"The search and rescue effort is over," he said at a televised cabinet meeting. "Now we're moving on to rebuilding."

He said public and private funding would be available to repair damaged buildings and rebuild those that collapsed.

An estimated 1,800 buildings in Mexico City sustained serious damage in the quakes and will have to be repaired or demolished.

The office building where the final victim was found - the last active search site - crumpled into a heap of tangled steel and concrete during the 7.1-magnitude quake.

In all, 49 bodies were recovered there, officials said.

Family members had camped out for more than a week at the site, accusing the authorities of mishandling the rescue effort and threatening to take to the rubble themselves.

Officials said the building would not be demolished immediately, to allow investigators to analyze the ruins for evidence of construction irregularities.

Twenty-eight people were rescued alive from the building in the first days after the quake. Across the capital, 69 people were saved from the wreckage of the 39 buildings that collapsed.

But no one had been found alive since Sept 22, and hopes that miracle survivors would be located beneath the rubble gradually faded.

The nationwide death toll stands at 369 people, with the largest number killed in Mexico City.

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