STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's hear some of the history of an elevated train line that collapsed in Mexico City last week. An overpass failed as a train was crossing it. The death toll as of this morning stood at 26, with many hospitalized. And the background of that line has added to the anger directed at Mexico's government. NPR's Mexico correspondent Carrie Kahn is on the line. Carrie, good morning.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: First, what does the crash scene look like?
KAHN: Well, this is a really poor part of the city, and it's in the far, far south of the city center. And as you said, this part of the metro goes above ground. And at the site, you just see this huge horizontal girder of the overpass. It just came unhinged from the vertical support beam. The vertical support beams are still there. It just crashed onto the street below, and it's still like that. And the anger and the shock, the pain of the crash is still so raw out there. I was there over the weekend. And, you know, most of the victims that I talked to of the victims of the crash were workers heading home from late-night jobs. And just listen to Nestor Hernandez. He's 42 and unemployed. He lives just three blocks from the crash site. He heard it, and he went running there.
NESTOR HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: He says, hearing people dying, suffering, it was just horrible. And he just broke down crying, reliving that night. Then he switched just quickly to anger when I asked him if he believed the authorities when they said they will get to the bottom of this, and he just said no.
INSKEEP: Wow. Well, now we should note, a Norwegian firm, an outside firm, has been hired for an independent investigation. It is, of course, very early to get the findings. These kinds of investigations can take many months. But some of the history is known. What is the history of this line?
KAHN: Ever since the opening of this line, there were questions about its structural integrity. It was actually shut down less than two years after it opened for a full review. And when I talked to residents of the area and the metro riders, they all say it's just long had problems. Many say they were afraid to ride it. They described shaking on the line when they were on it, once you got to that line, the sound of metal on metal, shoddy support columns, they would see crumbling sometimes. City officials insist the maintenance was always done, but a lot of really powerful, very powerful people in the country are associated with the line. The country's richest man - the country's richest man's company built it. The current mayor is under fire for possibly not maintaining it. The current foreign minister was mayor at the time it was built, and both are close allies of the president and are top contenders in line for the presidency.
INSKEEP: Oh, well, is this local story in Mexico City then becoming a national political story because of those connections to the president?
KAHN: Definitely. And the president has said repeatedly there will be a full investigation, nothing will be hidden, and whoever is responsible will be held responsible. And Lopez Obrador, the president, is very skillful at deflecting criticism away from himself and blaming past administrations for the country's ills, which clearly they deserve a lot of blame here for. But Lopez Obrador can't pass the buck on this one, this crash, to past administrations because it was his party and those two close allies that were in power when this line was built and supposedly maintained. Given all of that, analyst Carlos Bravo from the Mexico City think tank CIDE says he's skeptical that heads will roll.
CARLOS BRAVO: Up until now, given what has happened and what has been said, I don't think we're really going to see accountability. It's usually the case in Mexico with these sort of acts of tragedies.
KAHN: And critics of the president say he's just not looking sympathetic enough. And he spent much of the week after the crash being on the defensive. And Mexico holds midterm elections next month. So many don't believe the crash will hurt the president's party. He remains pretty popular here, especially with the poor.
INSKEEP: Carrie, thanks so much for the update, really appreciate it.
KAHN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mexico correspondent, Carrie Kahn.
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