In Mexico, survivors recount amazing escapes from quake

Amid the endless tragedies from the magnitude 7.1 quake that killed more than 300 people, there were incredible stories of survival.

MEXICO CITY — A tree branch saved a maintenance mechanic from the collapsing building where a dozen co-workers died when last week’s earthquake rocked central Mexico. A slap across the face startled a dazed father back to his senses, spurring him to carry his critically injured daughter to safety. Neighbors, co-workers and passers-by pulled people from the jaws of death, while taxis, private cars and even buses rushed them to hospitals.

Amid the endless tragedies from the magnitude 7.1 quake that killed more than 300 people, there were incredible stories of survival.

Conrad Vazquez Martinez, a 67-year-old mechanic, was on the roof of the four-story laboratory building where he worked in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood when the quake hit at midday Sept. 19.

“I wanted to run to get to people, but the building was collapsing behind me,” Vazquez Martinez said Wednesday as he lay in a bed at the Magdalena de las Salinas hospital, recovering from a broken hip and leg. “I ran and ran, and with one jump I grabbed a branch that grew close to the building.”

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“Another employee and I had once talked about that branch. We said, ‘If there’s ever a problem here, we’ll jump out here,’ ” he remembered. “Unfortunately it was old, and it broke.”

But Vazquez Martinez never let go of the branch, and it proved a lifesaver. He fell through the lower branch and onto the sidewalk in front of a neighboring building, breaking his hip and leg. And then a second miracle: A metal balcony grill fell over him, partly shielding him from the direct impact of rubble that tumbled over him.

The tree branch, which he still gripped in one hand, poked out of the debris to give him a trickle of air.

“The metal grate had a screen, so the…

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