Talia HernÃ¡ndez, 28, was on the second floor of the building, taking a tattoo class. When the earthquake hit and tore through the structure, she said, she rolled down the stairs as they were collapsing. She managed to escape the building but broke her foot in the process.
She said that she and others managed to flee, but even the perimeter of the building remained dangerous. The heavy smell of leaking gas permeated the air, as it has across damaged parts of the city. Emergency personnel at the scene were pushing bystanders away, fearing an explosion.
âI canât believe Iâm alive,â she said, weeping and in shock. Medics were pulling shards of glass from her foot.
The scene was cordoned off, and the injured were being carted away on gurneys and placed in ambulances. The building itself was unrecognizable -â it had fallen entirely. The rubble, a brown-colored cement, rose nearly 20 feet high. The neighboring building was partially torn in the collapse as well.
Angela Cota, 52, an administrative secretary working in the building on the first floor, said that just as she and others were fleeing the building, parts of it fell around them. They, too, managed to get out, but it was unclear how many people remained stuck beneath the rubble.
Gabriela HernÃ¡ndez, 28, lay on a gurney, covered in blood and nearly speechless. Her boyfriend stood beside her, clutching her IV bag. The blood was not hers, they said; it belonged to someone who had fallen on top of her when the building went down. She said she had been on the sixth floor when it happened, yet managed to escape.
The scene grew frantic as dozens of medical workers, police officers and firefighters shouted to see what people needed. They were hastily trying to make a pulley system to free people still trapped near the top of the rubble heap. Construction workers from a nearby site raced to the scene and lined up to help, bearing long wooden poles to help lift pieces of the structure.
Buildings also collapsed across the neighborhoods of Condesa, another fashionable district in the city constructed atop soft soil and extremely vulnerable to earthquakes. Outside, thousands and thousands stood in the streets, avenues and sidewalks, filling the popular neighborhoods with a sense of dread.
On Laredo Street, an entire eight-story apartment building had fallen into the road, leaving an enormous heap of concrete and rubble pouring into the street. At least 100 people stood atop the pile clearing it by hand, piece by piece, passing boulders and twisted steel pipes along a human chain that radiated from the heap like spokes.
The sound of shouts filled the air, men barking orders at one another. Then came a call for silence â to listen for the voices of anyone trapped inside, screaming for help.