As rescue workers tirelessly searched and the world waited breathlessly for them to find a 12-year-old girl believed to be trapped under the rubble of a caved-in school toppled by the devastating earthquake in Mexico City, it became apparent that the little girl never existed, Mexican officials said.
The girl, called “Frida Sofia,” was a case of a story that ran wild in the frantic aftermath of the disaster.
“We are certain that it was not an actuality,” Adm. Angel Enrique Sarmiento, assistant secretary of the Mexican navy, told local paper El Universal. “We don’t have any knowledge, we never had any knowledge of the account.”
In the face of unimaginable destruction and at least 273 people killed, the story took on a life of its own as a symbol of much-needed help. A report first surfaced Wednesday that a little girl had signaled to rescuers from under the rubble of the Enrique Rebsámen school.
From that report came a series of details that included the girl’s name and age, and even reports of communication with the girl. Rescuers said they managed to slide a hose to her for her to drink, and other workers told MSNBC that they handed the little girl a phone and that she reported two other children were trapped with her under a granite table.
However, no parents came to claim the girl, which led some to believe she was misidentified. And, then Thursday, Sarmiento announced that after 11 children had been rescued, and 19 other children, plus six adults found dead, there were no other children beneath the collapsed school.
“We have carried out a full count with the directors of the school, and we are sure that all the children are either safe at home, in the hospital or, unfortunately, died,” Sarmiento said.