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Years of Unheeded Warnings. Then the Subway Crash Mexico City Had Feared.

Years of Unheeded Warnings. Then the Subway Crash Mexico City Had Feared.
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Years of Unheeded Warnings. Then the Subway Crash Mexico City Had Feared.

Years of Unheeded Warnings. Then the Subway Crash Mexico City Had Feared.

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

Ever because it opened almost 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. But aside from a quick, partial shutdown of the line in 2014, the warnings went unheeded by successive governments.

On Monday evening, the mounting issues turned deadly: A subway prepare on the Golden Line plunged about 50 toes after an overpass collapsed beneath it, killing no less than 24 folks and injuring dozens extra.

The accident — and the authorities’s failure to behave sooner to repair identified 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 occasion and probably, the nation.

The crash occurred at 10:22 p.m. on one of the latest stretches of observe in the subway system, the Golden Line, additionally known as Line 12, which was inaugurated in 2012. Almost 1 / 4 of one million passengers trip Line 12 day-after-day, officers stated.

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

Employees employed to function and preserve the subway system issued over a dozen complaints to move authorities over the years, which they stated had been all ignored.

“This might have been averted,” stated Homero Zavala, a consultant of a union of Mexico City’s subway staff. “If us staff had been actually listened to by this administration, lots of issues can be averted.”

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

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

Emergency staff scrambled to entry the tilted prepare automobiles mendacity amid tangled wires and twisted steel, ultimately pulling dozens of folks from the wreckage and transporting greater than 70 folks to hospitals with accidents. Most of the 24 individuals who had been killed in the crash had been discovered lifeless on web site by rescue crews, officers stated.

Determined kin 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 relations.

“I’m on the lookout for my son,” Marisol Tapia told reporters by way of sobs. “I can’t discover him wherever.”

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

“I went to all the hospitals and so they say he’s not there,” she told reporters gathered at the crash web site on Tuesday. “The metro wasn’t constructed by itself — this flaw has been there for a very long time and nobody did something.”

A complete of 79 injured folks had been taken to hospitals, three of whom later died, in keeping with Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City. Amongst these hospitalized had 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 almost 1,000 miles of railway stretching throughout southern Mexico.

Quickly after taking workplace, he additionally stopped the building of a half-built airport {that a} rival occasion had began to construct for Mexico City. Regardless that the authorities had already spent billions of {dollars} on the airport, Mr. López Obrador scrapped it to begin constructing one other airport at a unique location, reimagining the venture in his title.

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

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

The brand new line, which serves the working-class neighborhoods in the capital’s southeast, was constructed by Mr. Ebrard, who was mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012. He was accused by critics of speeding to complete building 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 keeping with native media. Trains needed to decelerate over elevated stretches of observe, as a result of engineers feared derailments. A couple of yr 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 capacity to help heavy weight.

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

The lawmakers cited a congressional inquiry into the defective line which discovered that “the modifications to the fundamental engineering, to the authentic structure with the change of underground stations to elevated stations, severely affected the technical working situations” of the subway line.

Residents residing close to the scene of the accident stated authorities staff had mounted the column shortly after the earthquake. However 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 residence from work Monday evening when he felt a tremor and heard a loud crash a couple of hundred yards up the road.

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

Households rushed to the scene, he stated, hoping to search out their family members and yelling at the police demanding to be let by way of 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 Grasp Plan for the subway system detailed main backlogs to the upkeep of tracks and trains and warned that trains may very well be derailed on the Golden Line until main repairs had been undertaken. It’s unclear whether or not these wanted repairs had 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 yr, the metropolis didn’t appoint a director of infrastructure upkeep for the subway system. Ms. Sheinbaum solely stuffed the position final week.

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

In March 2020, one particular person was killed and no less than 41 others had been injured when two subway trains collided in Mexico City. Then in January, a fireplace ripped by way of 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, no less than, the two political heavyweights offered a united entrance.

“We’re in settlement to get to the backside of this and work collectively to search out the fact and know what brought about this incident,” Ms. Sheinbaum stated.

“When you have nothing to cover, you don’t have anything to worry,” Mr. Ebrard stated. “Like anybody else, I’m topic to no matter the authorities decide, however much more in order a high-level official, as somebody who promoted the building of the line.”


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