At least 24 people were killed and 65 were hospitalized when a railway overpass and train collapsed onto a busy road in Mexico City on Monday night, crushing cars under fallen carriages and rubble.
The authorities halted rescue efforts shortly after they began, saying there was a risk that more train parts and debris could slam down onto the road.
A video on local channel Milenio TV showed the structure plummeting onto a stream of cars near the Olivos station in the southeast of the city at around 10.30 p.m. local time, sending up clouds of dust.
At least two train carriages precariously hung from the damaged overpass. Initial rescue efforts saw medical and fire crews trying to access the carriages. The army was also in attendance.
Speaking to reporters at the site, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said it appeared a girder had given way on the overpass but the cause was being investigated.
Other images showed at least two train carriages precariously hanging from the damaged overpass as emergency fire and medical crews initially used ladders to access the carriages.
At one point, Sheinbaum said the rescue had been suspended “because the train is very weak.” A crane was being transported to the site to stabilize the train carriages so rescuers could resume their work, she said.
Sheinbaum said seven of the people transported to hospital were in a “grave condition” and undergoing surgery. She earlier said a total of around 70 people had been injured.
Wearing a hard hat and face mask to speak to reporters at the accident site, Sheinbaum said it appeared a girder had given way on the overpass but the cause was being investigated.
The authorities were working to identify the dead, which included children, Sheinbaum said.
One person trapped in their car underneath the wreckage had been rescued alive and was taken to hospital.
The Metro 12 line that runs over the collapsed overpass was built almost a decade ago when Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard was mayor of Mexico City.
Questions about the quality of the construction emerged soon after he left office as mayor, including accusations of irregularities.
“What happened today with the Metro is a terrible tragedy. My solidarity is with the victims and their families,” Ebrard said on Twitter. “Of course, the causes must be investigated and responsibilities defined.”
Ebrard and Sheinbaum are seen by many political observers as the most likely successors to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador once his six-year term is over in 2024.
The Mexico City Metro, one of the largest and busiest in the world, has had at least two serious accidents since its inauguration half a century ago.
In March of last year, a collision between two trains at the Tacubaya station left one passenger dead, injuring 41 people. In 2015, a train that did not stop on time crashed into another at the Oceania station, injuring 12 people.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Noe Torres; Editing by Tom Hogue, Gerry Doyle, Michael Perry and Jane Wardell)
–With files from the Associated Press and Global News