In a surprising twist to a story that generated a lot of attention, authorities in Mexico ruled out Thursday that there was a girl named “Frida Sofía” trapped in the rubble of the school Enrique Rébsamen of Mexico City.
Undersecretary of the Navy, Angel Enrique Sarmiento Beltrán, told the media on the scene of the rescue, that they are “certain that it was not true” when asked about the existence of the minor.
“We are sure that all the children are accounted for, unfortunately some found dead while others are in the hospital or they are safe in their houses,” said the official.
According to him, 19 children from the school died, as well as six adults. Eleven children have been rescued alive. The official said that only “evidence” of the presence of life under the debris has been found, so that the rescue efforts continue.
Many Mexican and international media reported that there was a girl trapped in the rubble named Frida Sofia. However, during Thursday morning, conflicting information had accumulating that fueled the confusion about the case and raised doubts about the existence of Frida Sofia.
The unusual thing about the story of the non-existent Sofia is that she was spoken about by top level officials of the Navy, but also the Secretary of Education, Aurelio Nuño, who said Wednesday that the parents of “Frida” were not in the vicinity of the school.
Meanwhile, the Navy’s senior officer, Admiral Jose Luis Vergara, gave details Wednesday to Mexico’s Televisa of where the minor was and the strategy to reach her. Other reports claimed they had dropped a tube down into the debris to provide water to the girl.
Televisa, the largest Mexican television network, issued a denial Thursday afternoon. In the text they assure that all the information that they divulged on what happened in the school Rébsamen had been obtained from sources of the Navy or corroborated by this institution.
Specifically they point to Admiral Angel Enrique Sarmiento, undersecretary of the Navy, who was asked to explain what they call “a radical change in the version that he had been providing himself directly.”
“The information we have provided is based exclusively on official sources and the interviews we have conducted and transmitted with government staff and citizen volunteers working in the area of the collapse,” the television station said in its statement.
“There were big contradictions at the school, but we always went with the Admiral to corroborate information,” Televisa said in a Twitter message that attributed reporter Danielle Dithurbide, who was in charge of tracking live information in the place of the event.
The television broadcaster issued a Wednesday audio attributed to Admiral Vergara in which he talks about the work in progress to rescue a minor.
In an interview with Televisa on Thursday, Vergara admitted that on Wednesday rescue workers had indications that there was life under the rubble of the school.
“The information they gave me is that it was a girl. And today in the morning they start to question whether it’s a girl or not a girl,” he said.
It’s unclear if Frida Sofia was ever a child attending the school, if she was ever trapped, if her rescue failed and became a cover up.
There were similar government reported inconsistencies during the 1895 earthquake in Mexico. The government to this day reports 5,000 deaths, however independent groups have put that number much higher at 30,000 – 45,000 deaths.
We may never know the true story about Frida Sofia, but she is a reminder of how difficult journalism is in Mexico, a country where misinformation is commonly spread by the people who should be reliable sources of information for the public.