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A trapped girl in a Mexican school becomes a symbol for a country’s rescue efforts

Click to play video: 'Building partially collapses during live broadcast of school rescue' Building partially collapses during live broadcast of school rescue
WATCH ABOVE: Building partially collapses during live broadcast of school rescue – Sep 21, 2017

UPDATE: No girl trapped in collapsed Mexico school; all students are accounted for, officials say

A delicate effort to reach a young girl buried in the rubble of her school stretched into a daylong vigil for Mexico, much of it broadcast across the nation as rescue workers still struggled in rain and darkness early Thursday trying to pick away unstable debris and reach her.

The sight of her wiggling fingers early Wednesday became a symbol for the hope that drove thousands of professionals and volunteers to work frantically at dozens of wrecked buildings across the capital and nearby states looking for survivors of the magnitude 7.1 quake that killed at least 245 people in central Mexico and injured over 2,000.

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The death rose after Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the number of confirmed dead in the capital had risen from 100 to 115. An earlier federal government statement had put the overall toll at 230, including 100 deaths in Mexico City.

READ MORE: At least 223 people killed after major 7.1 magnitude earthquake strikes near Mexico City

Mancera also said two women and a man had been pulled alive from a collapsed office building in the city’s center Wednesday night, almost 36 hours after the quake.

Even as President Enrique Pena Nieto declared three days of mourning, soldiers, police, firefighters and everyday citizens kept digging through rubble, at times with their hands gaining an inch at a time, at times with cranes and backhoes to lift heavy slabs of concrete.

“There are still people groaning. There are three more floors to remove rubble from. And you still hear people in there,” said Evodio Dario Marcelino, a volunteer who was working with dozens of others at a collapsed apartment building.

 

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Rescue workers search for children trapped inside the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City. AP Photo/Carlos Cisneros
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Rescue workers and a trained dog search for children trapped inside the school. AP Photo/Carlos Cisneros
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Rescue workers search for children trapped inside the collapsed school. AP Photo/Carlos Cisneros
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A car lays crushed under the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City. AP Photo/Carlos Cisnero

A man was pulled alive from a partly collapsed apartment building in northern Mexico City more than 24 hours after the Tuesday quake and taken away in a stretcher, apparently conscious

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In all, 52 people had been rescued alive since the quake, the city’s Social Development Department said, adding in a tweet: “We won’t stop.” It was a race against time, Pena Nieto warned in a tweet of his own saying that “every minute counts to save lives.”

But the country’s attention focused on the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school on the city’s south side, where 21 children and four adults had been confirmed dead.

IN PICTURES: A look at the damage to Mexico City after devastating earthquake

Hopes rose Wednesday when workers told local media they had detected signs that one girl was alive and she speaking to them through a hole dug in the rubble. Thermal imaging suggested several more people might be in the airspace around her.

A volunteer rescue worker, Hector Mendez, said cameras lowered into the rubble suggested there might be four people still inside, but he added that it wasn’t clear if anyone beside the girl was alive.

Dr. Alfredo Vega, who was working with the rescue team, said that a girl who he identified only as “Frida Sofia” had been located alive under the pancaked floor slabs.

Vega said “she is alive, and she is telling us that there are five more children alive” in the same space.

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WATCH: Dozens of buildings have collapsed and more than 200 killed in Mexico City after a 7.1-magnitude quake hit the capital Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'At least 22 students killed after Mexico earthquake collapses school' At least 22 students killed after Mexico earthquake collapses school
At least 22 students killed after Mexico earthquake collapses school – Sep 20, 2017

Education Secretary Aurelio Nuno confirmed that the girl was alive, but said it was still not confirmed if other children were also alive under the rubble. Strangely, Nuno said, no relatives of a girl named Frida could be found.

READ MORE: Church crumbles during child’s baptism leaving 11 family members dead after Mexico earthquake

While optimism ran strong for the girl’s rescue effort, only four corpses had been found in the wreckage during the day, Mendez said, and workers were still trying to get to the girl as the operation crossed into a new day.

The debris removed from the school changed as crews worked their way deeper, from huge chunks of brick and concrete to pieces of wood that looked like remnants of desks and paneling to a load that contained a half dozen sparkly hula-hoops.

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WATCH: Workers dig through the night to search for victims of Mexico earthquake

Click to play video: 'Workers dig through the night to search for victims of Mexico earthquake' Workers dig through the night to search for victims of Mexico earthquake
Workers dig through the night to search for victims of Mexico earthquake – Sep 20, 2017

Rescuers carried in lengths of wide steel pipe big enough for someone to crawl through, apparently trying to create a tunnel into the collapsed slabs of the three-story school building. But a heavy rain fell during the night, and the tottering pile of rubble had to be shored up with hundreds of wooden beams.

People have rallied to help their neighbors in a huge volunteer effort that includes people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers stood alongside construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.

At a collapsed factory building closer to the city’s center, giant cranes lifted huge slabs of concrete from the towering pile of rubble, like peeling layers from an onion. Workers with hand tools would quickly move in to look for signs of survivors and begin attacking the next layer.

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READ MORE: No reports of Canadian casualties in Mexico following massive earthquake

Government rescue worker Alejandro Herrera said three bodies had been found Wednesday afternoon at the factory.

“There are sounds (beneath the rubble), but we don’t know if they are coming from inside or if it is the sound of the rubble,” Herrera said.

Not only humans were pulled out.

Mexico City police said rescue workers clearing wreckage from a collapsed medical laboratory in the Roma neighborhood found and removed 40 lab rabbits and 13 lab rats used by the firm that had occupied the building, now a pile of beams and rubble.

WATCH: Rival soccer fans unite to aid in Mexico earthquake relief

Click to play video: 'Rival soccer fans unite to aid in Mexico earthquake relief' Rival soccer fans unite to aid in Mexico earthquake relief
Rival soccer fans unite to aid in Mexico earthquake relief – Sep 20, 2017

In addition to those killed in Mexico City, the federal civil defense agency said 69 died in Morelos state just south of the capital and 43 in Puebla state to the southeast, where the quake was centered.

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The rest of the deaths were in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City on three sides, Guerrero and Oaxaca states.

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A military police guards a building knocked down by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that jolted central Mexico damaging buildings, knocking out power and causing alarm throughout the capital on September 19, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico. Hector Vivas/Getty Images
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People take part in an earthquake drill in Mexico City on September 19, 2017 as the country commemorates a new anniversary of the 8.1 quake that in 1985 killed 10,000 people in the Mexican capital. ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
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Members of the Animal Rescue Team take part in an earthquake drill in Mexico City on September 19, 2017 as the country commemorates a new anniversary of the 8.1 quake that in 1985 killed 10,000 people in the Mexican capital. ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
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People remove debris outside a collapsed building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
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Rescuers and residents assists an injured victim amid the ruins of a building knocked down by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that jolted central Mexico damaging buildings, knocking out power and causing alarm throughout the capital on September 19, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico. Pedro Mera/Getty Images
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People are assisted after being injured during a quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017. STR/AFP/Getty Images
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Rescuers and residents of Colonia Condesa carry a woman on stretcher amid the ruins of a building knocked down by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that jolted central Mexico damaging buildings, knocking out power and causing alarm throughout the capital on September 19, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images
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Damages are seen after an earthquake hit in Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

In Atzala in Puebla state, villagers mourned 11 family members who died inside a church when it crumbled during a baptism for a 2-month-old girl. People at the wake said the only ones to survive were the baby’s father, the priest and the priest’s assistant.

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Power was being restored in some Mexico City neighborhoods that already spent a day without power. The mayor said there were 38 collapsed buildings in the capital, down from the 44 he had announced previously.

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