On Sept. 19, a family in Puebla, Mexico was attending the baptism of their daughter when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook the church, cracking the dome above them, which collapsed and fell on top of them. At least 11 people were killed when the Church of Saint James the Apostle collapsed, including the baby Elideth Torres de Leon, there for her baptism, her sister, mother, godmother, and a local alderman named Jacinto Roldan Capistran. Graciano Villanueva, Elideth's godfather, managed to escape from the wreckage, along with the church's pastor and sacristan.
Villanueva told the El Universal newspaper that he lost his wife in the earthquake, along with his daughter, his son-in-law and his two granddaughters. “I have nothing left of my family,” he said.
One of Villanueva’s relatives told reporters that the victims died while they were praying, and therefore “the only thing left to do is to resign oneself to the Lord's will.”
After the earthquake, the people of the town of Atzala worked all night to recover bodies lying beneath the ruins of the 17th century church. On Wednesday morning they placed the bodies they managed to remove in coffins and wrote their names on them. Dozens of people came by to pray and to leave flowers.
The El Sol de Puebla newspaper reported that after the dome fell, three injured people were taken to a hospital and that two people remain unaccounted for. Shortly after the earthquake, the Archdiocese of Puebla released a statement expressing their condolences to the families of those who died in the church. “We profoundly lament the deaths that occurred due to the quake, especially the...people who died because of the collapse of the church in Atzala near Chietla; and the three in Jolopan,” the text states.
The Archdiocese of Puebla said in the statement released this Wednesday that there are 163 damaged churches in their jurisdiction, including the Church of Saint James the Apostle. They also encouraged people to “stay calm, be attentive to directions from the authorities, be in solidarity with those asking us for help and not risk our lives and those of others unnecessarily.”
On Wednesday, the auxiliary bishops of Puebla, Rutilo Felipe Pozos Lorenzini and Tomás López Durán, celebrated a Funeral Mass in Aztala for those who died in Saint James the Apostle Church. To date, the 7.1-magnitude earthquake has left more than 200 dead throughout the country, including 43 in Puebla state, which was one of the hardest hit.