Mexico earthquake death toll surpasses 200

Tuesday's 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico was becoming a greater tragedy with each passing hour.

Early Wednesday, the death toll stood at 217, after being revised downward from 248, the Associated Press reported, as rescue teams continued to search for survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings in Mexico City and surrounding states.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City.

Damaged buildings included the Philippines Embassy in Mexico City, but staffers there were unhurt.

Rescue workers and volunteers search a building that collapsed after an earthquake in downtown Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Rescue workers and volunteers searched a collapsed building in downtown Mexico City, Sept. 19, 2017.  (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Twenty children and two adults died when a school collapsed in Mexico City, where 30 children and eight adults were still missing. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets.

A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school's rubble. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.

The rescue effort was punctuated by cries of "Quiet!" so searchers could listen for any faint calls for help.

Late Tuesday, Mexico's president issued a video statement urging people to stay calm in the aftermath of the quake. President Enrique Pena Nieto said many people will need help, but the initial focus has to be on finding people trapped in wrecked buildings.

"The priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people," the president said, adding that 40 percent of Mexico City and 60 percent of Morelos state had no electricity.

The earthquake occurred just two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 tremor in the south of the country caused more than 90 dead and caused buildings in Mexico City to sway for more than a minute.

Tuesday was also the 32nd anniversary of the devastating 1985 earthquake that killed thousands of people in the capital.

The federal government declared a state of disaster in Mexico City, freeing up emergency funds. President Pena Nieto said he had ordered all hospitals to open their doors to the injured.

The epicenter was near the town of Raboso, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Mexico City's mayor said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone, and that 50 to 60 people were rescued. Seventy people who were in the capital were hospitalized, authorities said.  

Market stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she was in a taxi when the quake struck. She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.

Gala Dluzhynska, who was taking a class in Mexico City's Roma district, said the building she was in didn't have "any stairs anymore, only rocks," after the quake hit.

In Mexico City pictures fell from walls, objects were shaken off of flat surfaces and computer monitors toppled over. Some people dove for cover under desks.

Mexico City's international airport tweeted that it had suspended operations following the quake, although it was not immediately clear how many flights have been affected.

President Donald Trump tweeted "God bless the people of Mexico City" after news of the earthquake broke, and added that the U.S. was "with you and will be there for you."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose state recently suffered greatly from Hurricane Harvey, tweeted that Texas "will continue to offer any support to aid Mexico in their time of need."

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said the U.S. stands "ready to provide assistance should our neighbors request our help." It added that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City is also ready to provide assistance to U.S. citizens who were possibly affected by the quake.

Earlier in the day buildings across the city held preparation drills on the anniversary of a 1985 quake. That 8.1 quake, which the Los Angeles Times reported lasted between three to five minutes, collapsed hundreds of buildings, left an estimated 10,000 people dead, and left tens of thousands injured or homeless.

Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

The quake comes just over a week after Mexico's southern coast was hit by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake about 73 miles off Tres Picos. The quake left 90 people dead and prompted tsunami waves and power outages.

The epicenter was 102 miles west of Tapachula in southern Chiapas state, and had a depth of about 21 miles. The quake was so powerful, it sent people fleeing from buildings 650 miles away in Mexico City.

The Sept. 8 quake had 62 aftershocks and President Enrique Pena Nieto called it the biggest quake the country has seen in a century.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.