Warnings over school ignored before quake

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexico City borough president said officials from a previous administration ignored warnings that unauthorized construction work had damaged the structural integrity of a school that collapsed during a powerful earthquake.

The death toll from the magnitude 7.1 quake which hit Sept. 19 reached 358 on Friday, as the search continued for bodies in the debris of some downed buildings.

The school became a symbol of the tragedy when a three-story wing of the building pancaked, killing 26 people including 19 children. Photos over the years suggested an increasingly heavy fourth story had been gradually added to the wing.

Borough president Claudia Sheinbaum said late Thursday that inspectors issued a report in November 2013 and warned the borough’s judicial director at the time that work on the third floor and illegally added fourth floor were “damaging structural elements that affect the stability of the building.”

The privately operated elementary and middle school was apparently allowed to complete the work by paying a fine equivalent to about $1,600 at the time.

“The file was closed, with a fine of 21,000 pesos. Outrageous,” Sheinbaum said. She added that she has filed a criminal complaint against the former judicial director, a person who held the same post later and “whoever else may be responsible.”