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Powerful earthquake hits Peru, kills hundreds

Powerful earthquake hits Peru, kills hundreds
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First Published: Thu, Aug 16 2007. 08 30 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Aug 16 2007. 08 30 PM IST
Chincha, Peru: Powerful aftershocks shook Peru on 16 August as rescuers pulled wounded and dead from collapsed homes and churches a day after a massive earthquake killed hundreds of people.
Hospitals were overwhelmed with injured in the cities of Chincha and Pisco on the Pacific coast, and dead bodies were gathered on street corners in Pisco.
Peru’s civil defense agency said at least 337 people perished and 1,300 were injured in the 7.9-magnitude quake and the death toll was expected to rise.
The US Geological Survey reported aftershocks of magnitude 6.0 and 6.3 on Thursday morning near the central Peru coast.
Wounded people lay on the floor in the San Jose hospital in Chincha, south of the capital Lima. Television images showed walls in the hospital destroyed by the quake.
“A wall fell on her. There are no beds and they can’t give her a bed until they can X-ray her, but there’s no power,” Hernando Rodriguez told a television reporter as he sat with his daughter in the hospital, hoping she could be moved to Lima.
In the San Juan de Dios hospital in Pisco, doctor Ricardo Cabrera said staff was struggling to cope with 200 wounded and more than 40 dead, with no power and a large part of the hospital damaged.
He said there was no morgue in the city and bodies were being gathered in the main square and on street corners.
“There are a lot of bodies still in the rubble,” Cabrera told RPP radio, calling for blood, bandages and medicines.
Death toll could rise
Many people were forced to sleep outside in cities devastated by the huge tremor, which cracked highways and cut power and telephone lines.
“The first impression of the team is that damage is severe, especially to houses,” said Giorgio Ferrario, the South America representative for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“We know for the moment, according to local authorities, that at least 35O people are dead, but the toll will certainly rise as search and rescue operations continue,” he said.
A fire department official said at least four people were trapped when the main tower of the Senor de Luren church in the city of Ica, home to some 120,000 people, was toppled.
“I was with my children when the movement started and then the walls collapsed. My house was destroyed,” Milagros Meneses, 35, told Reuters in the city of Canete, south of Lima, where at least two people were killed. “The hospital gave me a tent for my kids to sleep in.”
In the poor Canete neighborhood Imperial, people set fires inside the ruins of their homes to keep warm during the night.
“The situation is critical in Imperial. About 80 percent of the adobe houses have fallen and houses of stronger material have also collapsed,” Mayor Richard Yactayo told Reuters.
President Alan Garcia sent condolences to the families of the quake’s victims and said the country had narrowly escaped even greater disaster.
“It fortunately did not cause a catastrophe with an immense number of victims,” he said.
In 1970, one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes killed an estimated 50,000 Peruvians in catastrophic avalanches of ice and mud that buried the town of Yungay.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake on Wednesday was centered about 90 miles (145 km) southeast of Lima at a depth of around 25 miles (40 km) and was closely followed by nine aftershocks.
In Lima, people felt two waves that lasted around 20 seconds each.
Earthquakes measuring more than 7 magnitude often result in fatalities. The Andes region has many active fault lines.
Peru is a leading minerals producer, but many of its major mines sit far away from the quake zone.
Officials at the nearest big mine -- the Cerro Lindo copper, lead and zinc mine owned by Milpo -- said power was knocked out but it suffered no damages.
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First Published: Thu, Aug 16 2007. 08 30 PM IST