June 21, 2021

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Amid anger over deadly Mexico train crash, president vows justice

3 min read

Mexico City’s mayor says a structural problem likely caused the collapse that killed 25 people and injured more than 70 others.

Jose Luis Hernandez Martinez crossed Mexico City every day on subway Line 12 between his home on the city’s south side and the body shop where he worked repairing mangled cars.

The 61-year-old’s train had emerged from beneath the city and was jostling along the elevated portion far from downtown late on Monday night when two of its bright orange cars suddenly fell into a void.

Hernandez Martinez was killed instantly, his son Luis Adrian Hernandez Juarez said, one of 25 people who died in one of the world’s largest subway system’s worst accidents on Monday night. More than 70 others were injured.

“My father was recovered without vital signs, with trauma to his thorax, his brain, his feet, his knees,” Hernandez Juarez told The Associated Press, gripping the death certificate.

He said emergency personnel told him his father was crushed beneath other passengers. “It’s really terrible to see your father that way for the last time.”

Hernandez Juarez planned to bury his father on Wednesday as a string of funerals began across the city of more than nine million people amid boiling anger and frustration among the victims’ families and those who ride the sprawling subway daily.

A preliminary review suggested a failure in the horizontal support beams caused the accident, authorities said.

The elevated section of the Line 12 metro collapsed late on Monday, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 70 others [Marco Ugarte/AP Photo]

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum had urged the public to avoid speculation and promised a thorough and independent investigation. But in a news conference on Wednesday, she suggested a structural problem had likely caused the collapse, and drew attention to the fact that Line 12 had a “history”.

“The issue here is who is responsible,” she said, when asked if the head of the metro system should be fired.

During his daily news conference, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday assured that “there will be justice”. He said that the attorney general’s office had hired an independent firm to conduct an investigation.

“The head of government (Sheinbaum) decided that a firm that has expert knowledge in the matter should be charged with conducting an investigation,” Lopez Obrador said, “and I agree with [this] adherence to legality and to justice, there will be justice.”

Line 12 is Mexico City’s longest and newest, but has been plagued with problems since it began operating in 2012. At its farthest point, it carries commuters from the capital’s still semi-rural south side to jobs across the city. Some 220,000 passengers use Line 12 every day.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaking during his daily news conference in Mexico City on May 5, 2021 [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Early targets for the public’s ire were already emerging, among them the subway’s director, Florencia Serrania. Sheinbaum said she had not received any report about problems on Line 12 that suggested the possibility of a failure like the one on Monday night.

Serrania said on Tuesday that the line received a “very rigorous” daily inspection. It was also reviewed in June 2020 after an earthquake that was strong but did not cause significant damage in the city, she said. A city report in 2017 noted significant damage to a portion of the line after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that year.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who was Mexico City’s mayor from 2006 to 2012 when the line was constructed, was also feeling the heat. Widely viewed as a possible successor to Lopez Obrador, Ebrard said those responsible should be identified and said he would make himself available to authorities.

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