Rescue workers and others walk outside Santa Cruz Church in Madero, Mexico, after the roof collapsed Oct. 1, 2023, during a Mass and baptismal service. At lease 10 people died and another 60 people were injured in the collapse, with 23 remaining hospitalized. OSV News photo/Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Tamaulipas via Reuters

Roof collapse at Mexican church kills 10 during baptism celebration

By  David Agren, OSV News
  • October 2, 2023

MEXICO CITY -- A roof collapsed during Mass in a Mexican church, claiming at least 10 lives as Catholic leaders offered prayers for the dead and injured, and Mexican society expressed sorrow over the tragedy.

The roof of the Santa Cruz Church in Ciudad Madero, some 300 miles south of the Texas border city of Brownsville, collapsed during a baptismal service at around 2:18 p.m. local time Oct. 1.

At least 60 people were injured in the collapse, with 23 remaining hospitalized, according to the Tamaulipas state government, which attributed the collapse to presumed "structural failure."

A video captured from a nearby closed-circuit camera and shared on social media showed the church roof caving in on a sunny afternoon as the church walls buckled.

Onlookers and civil protection officials rushed to the scene. Members of a navy team expert in pulling people from collapsed buildings -- often after earthquakes and working with sniffer dogs -- had been flown in from Mexico City. Press photos from the inside showed the parts of the roof resting on pews, offering possible spaces for protection.

"I ask for your prayers, I also ask that we can be united in one heart, in the face of this tragedy," Bishop José Armando Álvarez Cano of Tampico, the local diocese, said in a short video statement.

"In this time of pain and mourning, we raise our prayers to the Almighty to shower his comfort and peace on the affected souls and their families," the Mexican bishops' conference said in a statement.

"The church is a community of faith, love and mutual support, and in these difficult times, we come together as one body to express our solidarity with all those who have suffered in this tragedy. We ask the Lord to grant the strength to endure this difficult path of mourning and healing," the bishops said.

Images of the frantic rescue unfolding at the collapsed parish provoked outpourings of emotion and support from across Mexico. People pitched in to remove rubble and provide refreshments to rescuers and donated needed supplies for the rescue efforts and victims, according to social media photos. Heavy equipment was brought in to lift large pieces of rubble.

Among those injured were a 4-month-old baby, three 5-year-olds and two 9-year-olds, according to the diocese. Police officers said three of the dead were children.

"From underneath the rubble, thanks to divine providence and the work of the rescue teams, people have been pulled out alive!" the diocese wrote in a statement posted on social media accounts. "Let’s keep praying!" they asked.

Father Ángel Vargas, pastor of the Santa Cruz Parish, estimated at least 80 people were in the church at the time of the collapse, including children, according to local media outlet 4C Noticias. The Tamaulipas state police said a 100 people may have been participating in the baptismal service at the time of the collapse, The Guardian reported.

"There was a person behind me, and he didn’t make it out," Father Vargas said of his own escape.

"Those who left rest in peace and those of us who stayed will surely suffer all our lives. … I hope that all those who have been hospitalized recover soon and that we families strengthen our faith," Father Vargas said.

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