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Outside quake stricken Mexico City, most kids going back to school

By Lizbeth Diaz and Ana Isabel Martinez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Most schools in Mexico City remained closed on Monday after last week's deadly earthquake, but children outside the capital were set to return to their classrooms, although aftershocks were still jolting the country.

Search operations in the Mexican capital were narrowed to a handful of buildings destroyed by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake last Tuesday that killed at least 320 people.

The quake rendered thousands of people homeless with many of them living in tents in the streets or emergency shelters, but there were signs that the 20 million people living the greater metropolitan area were gradually resuming their routines.

"Our neighborhood is in mourning," said Deborah Levy, 44, from trendy Condesa district that was among the worst hit. "Some neighbors and friends got together (Sunday). We went to eat to cheer ourselves up, looking for a little normality."

Some of the most affected neighborhoods, those built on top of a soft ancient lake bed, still had entire blocks cordoned off.

More than 44,000 schools in six states were due to reopen on Monday, but only 103 of them in Mexico City, which suffered most of the fatalities.

Officials said they did not want to impede relief efforts, so more than 4,000 public schools and nearly as many private schools in the capital will remain closed for now.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico, with 350,000 students at campuses in and around Mexico City, will resume classes on Monday.

Of 6,000 damaged buildings, some 1,500 have yet to be inspected, said Horacio Urbano, president of Centro Urbano, a think tank specializing in urban issues and real estate.

Ten percent of the damaged buildings were constructed after 1990, by which time strict building codes had been enacted in the wake of the 1985 earthquake that killed some 10,000 people.

Search operations, using advanced audio equipment to detect signs of life beneath tonnes of rubble, continued at a few buildings with help from teams from as far afield as Israel and Japan.

At a school in southern Mexico City where 19 children and six adults had been reported killed, officials recovered the body an adult woman on Sunday.

The search for survivors continued in a ruined office building in the Roma neighborhood and in a five-story apartment building in historic Tlalpan.

Authorities called off efforts in the upper-middle class Lindavista zone after pulling 10 bodies from the rubble over several days, and work at the Tlalpan building was briefly halted on Saturday by a magnitude 6.2 aftershock. [nL2N1M40AJ]

Another 5.7 aftershock struck on Sunday off the west coast, jolting southwestern Mexico, and seismologists predicted more tremors to come. [nL2N1M509H]

While aid and volunteer workers have flooded into the accessible districts of Mexico City, people in more remote neighborhoods and surrounding states have received less attention. [nL2N1M50BH]

Miguel Angel Luna, a 40-year old architect, joined a caravan of civilians that headed out late last week to help isolated communities scattered around the base of the Popocatepetl volcano in the state of Morelos.

Around 40 percent of the adobe homes he saw in poor villages had been completely destroyed and some 80 percent were heavily damaged, Luna said.

"We're talking about very poor communities," Luna said. "They don't have tools, they don't have materials, they don't have money to rebuild."

(For a graphic on Mexico earthquake, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2fFELlH)

(Additional reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)