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

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

Ever because it opened almost a decade in the past, the most recent Mexico Metropolis subway line — a heralded growth of the second largest subway system within 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 road in 2014, the warnings went unheeded by successive governments.

On Monday night time, the mounting issues turned deadly: A subway prepare on the Golden Line plunged about 50 ft after an overpass collapsed beneath it, killing a minimum of 24 folks and injuring dozens extra.

The accident — and the federal government’s failure to behave sooner to repair recognized issues with the road — instantly set off a political firestorm for 3 of essentially the most highly effective folks in Mexico: the president and the 2 folks broadly believed to be front-runners to succeed him as leaders of the governing social gathering and presumably, the nation.

The crash occurred at 10:22 p.m. on one of many latest stretches of monitor, known as Line 12, which was inaugurated in 2012. Native residents had expressed concern concerning the structural integrity of the overpass, together with cracks within the concrete, after a strong earthquake devastated elements of the town in September 2017.

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

“This might have been averted,” stated Homero Zavala, a consultant of a union of Mexico Metropolis’s subways employees. “If us employees had been actually listened to by this administration, a variety of issues can be averted.”

However authorities ignored the employees’ 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 immediately collapsing in a bathe of sparks, sending up a cloud of particles as one of many prepare automobiles smashed right into a automobile on the highway beneath.

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

Determined family members flocked to the scene for information of their family members, whereas others scoured metropolis hospitals in hopes of discovering their members of the family.

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

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

“I went to all of the hospitals and so they say he’s not there,” she told reporters gathered on 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.”

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 Mexico.

Quickly after taking workplace, he additionally stopped the development of a half-built airport {that a} rival social gathering had began to construct for Mexico Metropolis. Though the federal government had already spent billions of {dollars} on the airport, Mr. López Obrador scrapped it to start out constructing one other airport at a unique location, reimagining the undertaking in his identify.

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

Within the aftermath of Monday’s catastrophe, two of Mr. López Obrador’s closest allies got here below fast scrutiny: Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico Metropolis, and Marcelo Ebrard, the overseas minister who was mayor when the brand 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 capital’s working class neighborhoods, was constructed by Mr. Ebrard, who was mayor of Mexico from 2006 to 2012. He was accused by critics of dashing to complete building earlier than his time period concluded in an effort to bolster his political legacy. Troubles emerged instantly.

In simply the primary month after the road was inaugurated, there have been 60 mechanical failures on trains or on tracks, based on native media. Trains needed to decelerate over elevated stretches of monitor, as a result of engineers feared derailments. A few yr later, the town was pressured to briefly shut down a part of the $2 billion line for repairs.

Then after a strong earthquake struck in 2017, Mexico Metropolis transport authorities reported “a structural fault” in one of many metro line’s supporting columns, which had affected its capacity to help heavy weight.

In 2018, senators from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Get together known as for Mexico Metropolis authorities to tell Congress about irregularities within the funding of the subway line’s growth. In an official social gathering doc, the opposition lawmakers known as the Golden Line a “image of corruption and the misuse of public sources 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 unique format with the change of underground stations to elevated stations, severely affected the technical working circumstances” of the subway line.

Residents dwelling close to the scene of the accident stated authorities employees had mounted the column shortly after the earthquake. However they expressed doubt concerning the high quality of the reconstruction, after seeing what number of shutdowns and upkeep points the road had through the years.

Hernando Manon, 42, was strolling dwelling from work Monday night time when he felt a tremor and heard a loud crash just a few 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 location of the accident. “As we approached, we realized that the subway had collapsed.”

Households rushed to the scene, he stated, hoping to seek out their family members and yelling on the police demanding to be let by the cordon that they had erected across the wreckage.

Floodlights illuminated the location of the collapse as search and rescue groups tried to seek out survivors within the rubble. Ambulances, firefighters, the navy and Mexico’s forensic division labored to seek out survivors and determine 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 except main repairs had been undertaken. It’s unclear whether or not these wanted repairs had been ever carried out.

Since changing 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 town didn’t appoint a director of infrastructure upkeep for the subway system. Ms. Sheinbaum solely crammed the function final week.

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

In March 2020, one individual was killed and a minimum of 41 others had been injured when two subway trains collided in Mexico Metropolis. Then in January, a fireplace ripped by the subway’s headquarters in downtown Mexico Metropolis, killing a police officer and sending 30 others to hospital.

Opposition events blamed an absence of upkeep for the inferno, and the conservative Nationwide Motion Get together filed a legal grievance towards Ms. Sheinbaum and the pinnacle of the Mexico Metropolis subway.

At a information convention on Tuesday, each Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard confronted harsh questioning from reporters. Publicly, a minimum of, the 2 political heavyweights offered a united entrance.

“We’re in settlement to unravel this and work collectively to seek out the reality and know what prompted this incident,” Ms. Sheinbaum stated.

“If in case you have nothing to cover, you don’t have anything to worry,” Mr. Ebrard stated. “Like anybody else, I’m topic to regardless of the authorities decide, however much more in order a high-level official, as somebody who promoted the development of the road.”

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