By Thursday, authorities said they had determined the whereabouts of all the school’s students, both alive and dead, said Angel Enrique Sarmiento, deputy secretary of the Mexican Navy. Authorities confirmed 25 dead — 19 children and six adults — at the school, and 11 more were sent to hospitals, he said. Meanwhile, he said government agencies leading the rescue “had no knowledge” about a report with the girl’s purported name — a statement that raised more questions than answers.
“We are certain that all the children either passed away, are in local hospitals, or are safe and sound in their houses,” he told reporters.
Similar scenes played out across the region as volunteer brigades joined government efforts to reach survivors and clear away rubble. Amid the chaos, some Mexicans took comfort in how the disaster had brought them together.
Two earthquakes in 12 days
The school rescue attempt was one of many searches underway Thursday, after the earthquake turned dozens of buildings in central Mexico into dust and debris, killing at least 282 people, including one in Oaxaca, almost 480 kilometers (300 miles) from Mexico City.
President Enrique Peña Nieto declared a national emergency, and the country is observing three days of national mourning. An unaccounted number of people are staying at shelters around Mexico City after losing their homes. Schools have closed indefinitely, and millions remain without power.
Despite the president’s request that people stay indoors while rescue attempts continue, residents joined forces with rescue teams to search for survivors.
‘We know he is in there’
Throughout the region, buses carried volunteers from Mexico and beyond to disaster sites, where they bolstered search and rescue efforts. People formed long human chains to pass along supplies and and remove chunks of lumber and concrete.
It reminded some of the last time an earthquake of this scale hit the nation’s capitol. One man, who gave his name as Roberto, recalled pulling people out of wreckage in the Mexican capitol in 1985. It was worse then, he said, crediting enhanced building regulations with minimizing the damage.
“I can remember the feeling of lifelessness in their bodies,” he said. “I remember my hands sinking into their skin. They were decomposing. It was horrible.”
In Mexico City’s Condesa section, a large rescue operation was underway at a collapsed building that had housed an outsourcing company. At least 35 people are believed to still be buried in the in the rubble of the building on Alvaro Obregon.
Marco Antonio Garcia Salsedo believes his cousin is still alive in the building. His family heard that Angel Xavier Sousado Sandovar somehow placed a phone call to a friend in New York from inside the rubble.
The family had been camping out near the rescue site since Tuesday, holding onto hope that Sousado would emerge from the building. They don’t want to miss an announcement and they don’t want the government to raze the site before their loved one is found.
“We know he is in there and we are waiting for him,” Garcia said.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, police blocked a road leading to the corporate offices of a food processing center that also was damaged. Cristobal Perres Garcia, 59, said police told him that one of his cousins — a worker at the building– was among several who died when it collapsed.
In all, more than 100 deaths were reported in Mexico City, one of North America’s most populous metropolises with more than 21 million people. Elsewhere, 69 deaths were reported in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla state, 13 in the state of Mexico, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca state.
‘I thought someone was kicking my chair’
About 2,000 public schools were damaged in Tuesday’s quake, Secretary of Public Education Aurelio Nuños said. Sixteen of the 212 affected schools in Mexico City had serious damage, he said.
At the private Colegio Enrique Rabsamen, where rescuers were trying to reach the girl, the temblor caused the school to fold in on itself, sandwiching and collapsing classroom onto classroom.
Crews remained there Thursday the evening, but the sense of urgency of the previous night had dissipated, along with the crowds of onlookers. In their place, well-wishers left bunches of white floral arrangements around the block from the school.
The loss of life weighed heavily on volunteers.
“This is a tragedy,” said volunteer Ivan Ramos. “It’s kids. It will take a long time to heal.”
CNN’s Rosa Flores and Kara Fox reported from Mexico City, and Jason Hanna and Emanuella Grinberg wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Mariano Castillo, Nicole Chavez, Joshua Berlinger, Miguel Marquez and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.