WORLD NEWS

9 dead, 54 injured as wind causes stage collapse at Mexico election rally

May 23, 2024, 6:07 AM

Security forces stand around a stage that collapsed due to a gust of wind during an event attended ...

Security forces stand around a stage that collapsed due to a gust of wind during an event attended by presidential candidate Jorge Álvarez Máynez in San Pedro Garza García, on May 22. (Alberto Lopez/AP via CNN Newsource)

(Alberto Lopez/AP via CNN Newsource)

SAN PEDRO GARZA GARCÍA, Mexico (CNN) — Nine people were killed and a presidential candidate was briefly taken to hospital after a stage collapsed under heavy winds at a campaign rally in Mexico on Wednesday.

Candidate Jorge Álvarez Máynez said he was not injured in the incident, which happened during his campaign event in the northeastern city of San Pedro Garza García.

The governor of Mexico’s Nuevo Leon state said at least 54 people were injured and rescue operations were ongoing to save some of the people trapped under the collapsed stage.

Among the dead is one minor, Governor Samuel García Sepúlveda said in a post on X, adding that some of the injured are stable while others are undergoing surgery.

https://x.com/samuel_garcias/status/1793517808753541135

”What we experienced happened in just a few seconds: A gale came, a sudden wind, and unfortunately, it collapsed the stage, resulting in a fatal accident,” Álvarez Máynez told Reuters. “I first saw the musicians’ drums, from the group that was going to play, were going to get blown away. When the others noticed, they ran in different directions; some jumped to the sides (of the stage), and I jumped back.”

Videos shared on social media showed the moment a strong gust caused the stage to collapse. Álvarez Máynez and his team can be seen running for cover as the structure, which included a large video screen, falls onto the stage and part of the audience area.

Footage taken in the aftermath of the accident shows a large number of emergency vehicles at the scene, their lights flashing in the darkness, as injured people are carried away. The area was cordoned off and guarded by heavily armed security personnel.

Nearby observations from Monterrey show there were thunderstorms that brought gusty winds to at least 40 to 50 kilometers (around 25 to 30 miles per hour). The stage location was likely impacted by a gust front, which is when gusty winds suddenly pick up and change direction from nearby thunderstorms.

Álvarez Máynez later said he was suspending all campaign activities after the collapse but would remain in the state to monitor the situation and victims.

“We have to have solidarity, there is nothing that can repair an accident, a damage of this nature, and [people] will not be alone in this tragedy and through the consequences that this tragedy will have in their lives,” Álvarez Máynez said.

The 38-year-old congressman is representing the center-left Citizens’ Movement party, and was named party candidate in January after García Sepúlveda dropped out. García Sepúlveda was forced to return to his duties as governor as political chaos erupted under his interim replacement, making his presidential campaign untenable.

Álvarez Máynez has little chance of winning the presidency — the election is seen as a two-horse race between a former Mexico City mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, a close ally of the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and a former senator Xochitl Gálvez who is representing the opposition coalition.

With the two women far ahead in the polls, Mexico is almost certainly going to elect its first female president in June.

Speaking to reporters, Álvarez Máynez said Civil Defense teams had checked the “structure of the set” prior to the event but that the severity of the wind gusts had caught organizers by surprise.

“The weather conditions were very atypical: the rain didn’t last for even five minutes … it wasn’t even a storm, it was truly atypical what happened,” he said.

The presidential candidate said an investigation into the incident would take place.

Governor García Sepúlveda urged people in the area to stay indoors, warning of more strong winds, thunderstorms and rain.

Mexico heads toward its largest election in history on June 2, which has been marred by spiking political violence and assassinations.

An estimated 70,000 candidates have stepped forward to compete for more than 20,000 positions, including the national presidency and the governorships of nine states.

So far this year, at least 28 candidates have been attacked, with 16 killed, according to data through April 1 from the research group Data Cívica, a figure set to outpace even the bloodiest election cycles in Mexico’s past.

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9 dead, 54 injured as wind causes stage collapse at Mexico election rally