After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico that killed over 280 people nationwide, reports that a girl named Frida Sofia was trapped under a collapsed part of a school in Mexico City circulated quickly through the media, creating an international sensation. But on Thursday evening, Mexican officials said that there is no evidence that the girl exists. Adm. Ángel Enrique Sarmiento, deputy secretary of the Mexican navy, said, “We want to stress, this story about a girl whose name was out in [newscasts], we’ve never had any knowledge of this version.”

Even as authorities attempted to correct false reports, some ambiguity and confusion remained.

According to Buzzfeed:

Sarmiento said he was unaware of how the Frida Sofia saga began. Authorities believe an adult woman remains alive under the school rubble and rescue attempts for her are continuing, he said.

However, later on Thursday, Sarmiento apologized for his earlier words and said rescuers did not have enough information to know if it is an older person or a child in the rubble. …

On Wednesday, a local TV station on the scene, Noticieros Televisa, reported that contact had been made with a young girl, who had reportedly told rescuers that her name was Frida Sofiía, she was 12-years-old, and was trapped under a table.

Noticieros Televisa, which had prime access to the rescue location, kept their cameras glued to the school all Wednesday, in the hope of capturing her rescue.

The station gave detailed accounts, which they said were verified by officials on the ground, including that rescuers speaking with the girl, that she was given water to drink, and that there were two others, possibly dead, near her.

On Thursday morning, rescuers were asked on live TV if they’d had recent contact with the girl. “We continue to do all efforts we can to get to her,” said a rescuer.

However, Thursday afternoon, officials stated that there was no girl trapped under the rubble.

Part of the building, in a southern part of Mexico City, collapsed Tuesday during the massive earthquake. Officials said 11 children were rescued at the site, and Sarmiento said 19 children and six adults were known to have died. The last body to be found in the rubble of the school was that of a 58-year-old woman, discovered Thursday morning.

Sarmiento made a more explicit apology later Thursday, saying, “I want to make it very clear that the information the Mexican public received about the existence of a girl who was alive underneath the rubble was released by the navy based on the technical reports and the accounts of the civilian and navy rescuers. I offer the Mexican public an apology for the information disseminated [Thursday] afternoon where I affirmed that I did not have details about a supposed child survivor in this tragedy.” CNN adds that Sarmiento “did not provide details about why officials are leaving open the possibility of finding someone else alive in the collapsed school.”

Buzzfeed emphasized the shock of those watching at home on television when they found out there was no girl trapped under the debris:

“Authorities gave minute-by-minute updates of all the information about Frida Sofia, and today they say the girl doesn’t exist,” tweeted Denise Maerker, a host with Noticieros Televisa.

After Admiral Ángel Enrique Sarmiento gave the news Thursday afternoon, Noticieros Televisa stuck to their original reporting, saying that all the information that was given to viewers about the girl had been verified with officials on the ground, including Mexico’s Navy.

Hours after the announcement was made, Noticieros Televisa put out a statement on its website demanding the Navy “inform, with clarity, why it changed its version.”

“You can’t undo what was said,” anchor Denise Maerker said on air, referring to Navy officials. “No one made it up. If someone made it up, it was them.”

The Washington Post writes that some believe the debacle was an attempt to portray Mexican officials as lifesavers:

“This is just like Mexican politics, incredible,” said Edgar Felix, a freelance reporter for several Mexican news outlets who had just spent more than 30 hours without sleep watching the rescue effort from inside the school courtyard. “This was just a media spectacle.”

The Post also notes that the school has emerged as a symbol of the horror and heartbreak caused by the earthquake.

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