Rescuers in northern Mexico recovered the bodies of at least 10 people who died after the roof of a Roman Catholic church collapsed during Sunday Mass in Ciudad Madero, an oil-refining city on the Gulf of Mexico. Among the youngest victims were three children, including a1-and-a-half-year-old boy.
The roof’s collapse took place during a collective baptism, according to the Diocese of Tampico. About 60 people were injured, and 23 of them remained hospitalized on Monday morning, the Tamaulipas State security spokesman’s office said.
About 100 people were inside the Santa Cruz church at the time of the episode, and rescuers were searching for some two dozen people thought to still be in the rubble, officials said.
“I felt I would not be able to see my beautiful family again,” Josefina Ramírez, a survivor, said in a post on Facebook describing the moments after the roof caved in while she was attending her goddaughter’s baptism. “I cannot explain how we got out.” Her goddaughter’s fate was unknown on Monday morning.
It was not immediately clear why the church’s roof collapsed. In the moments after it gave way, survivors used chairs to break windows in desperate efforts to get outside as some screamed that children were still trapped inside, according to local news reports.
“I’m a faithful believer that we all die at the time that God decides,” the Rev. Ángel Vargas, the priest who was delivering mass at the time that the roof collapsed, said in televised comments. “Some are now gone and others of us remain,” he added. “Those who are gone, rest in peace. Those who remain, we’ll surely suffer the rest of our lives.”
Onlookers gathered around the site early Monday to pray as rescue workers using dogs, thermal-sensing equipment and saws to cut through debrisworked intentlyto find possible survivors. In addition to the Red Cross, public agencies, including the state police, state civil defense office and the National Guard were involved in the rescue operation.
“My solidarity with all the families who have lost their loved ones and with the community for this unfortunate accident,” Américo Villareal, the governor of Tamaulipas State, said on social media. The Tamaulipas security and civil protection agencies, he added, have sent officials to help rescue survivors, retrieve bodies and remove debris from the area.