At 6 a.m. on Thursday, Rafael Ortigosa stood atop the collapsed Alvaro Obregon office building in Mexico City and called a halt to his company’s search and rescue efforts.
It wasn’t the result Ortigosa, South America sales manager for Leader, a French maker of ultra-sensitive listening equipment and cameras, had hoped for. Although 28 people escaped the toppled seven-story building following a 7.1 magnitude quake on Sept. 19, by the time Ortigosa and his team arrived on the site more than a week later, no more survivors were being found. In all, 35 bodies were discovered at the site and at least eight more remained unaccounted for.
If he’d gotten there sooner, Ortigosa said, maybe a few more could have been saved. The first 72 hours after a natural disaster are crucial for bringing in rescue dogs and search equipment like the systems made by Leader, he said.
“That’s when you can still detect people alive,” he said. “After that, it is very difficult.”