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Ex-US ambassador: I saw buildings collapse, 'dust flying up' during Mexico quake

  • Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza says he's seeing "the real heart and soul" of the Mexican people after the latest deadly earthquake.
  • "Within a few minutes you started to see buildings collapse," says Garza, who was in his office in the capital when the quake struck.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza said Wednesday he is seeing "the real heart and soul" of the Mexican people after a powerful earthquake struck the capital.

Rescuers were digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings on Wednesday hoping to find survivors after Mexico City was hit by the deadliest earthquake in decades.

On Tuesday afternoon, central Mexico was hit by a magnitude-7.1 quake, which has killed at least 217 people, authorities say. The earthquake happened on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands.

It also happened nearly two weeks after the country was struck by a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake, which killed more than 30 people.

Garza said Wednesday he felt the earthquake from his office on the 24th floor in Mexico City.

"A little after 1 o'clock, you felt a jolt," said Garza, who was the ambassador from 2002-2009.

"I stepped out of my office into the hall and turned to a fellow who's nearly 80 years old — and has seen a number of these things — and he looked and he said, 'This one felt different,' Garza added in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Garza, who lives in Mexico City, said he and his colleague then looked out the window and "within a few minutes you started to see buildings collapse. You could see that from the dust flying up and this sort of thing."

After the initial jolt, Garza said, he began seeing authorities and others respond. "The army was out. The navy was out and the damage is quite widespread across many parts of the city," he said.

He added the city is seeing a very "unified response" to the disaster.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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