Peru Quake Disaster Area Hit by Powerful Aftershock
PISCO, Peru (Reuters) - Peruvian Rescue teams scrambled on Friday to find survivors in the disaster zone of a powerful earthquake that killed some 500 people and where an aftershock of 6.0 magnitude struck on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey and witnesses said.
The main quake of 8.0 magnitude hit on Wednesday and many of its victims were poor, killed when their flimsy mud-brick homes collapsed. Hospitals and morgues were overwhelmed, forcing residents to lay bodies out on city streets.
Reuters witness said there were no immediate reports of damages or injuries from the aftershock, centered around 145 km south of the capital on the coast.
The aftershock rattled Peruvians on Friday, sowing panic in the hardest-hit towns, south of the capital Lima, where volunteers tried to help emergency crews find the living and treat the injured.
Some 510 people have been confirmed dead and 1,000 wounded since the big quake, the United Nations said on Friday, quoting national and local authorities.
Thousands of people were homeless and forced to sleep outside. They complained of a lack of medical attention and emergency supplies.
The damage was worst in the cities of Canete, Chincha and Pisco.
The rescue of a man from the rubble of a collapsed church brought some hope to search teams in the town of Pisco.
"This is virtually a miracle, hopefully we can find more," said Carlos Cordova Gomez, chief of Peru's voluntary firefighters, who worked under floodlights to dig through the church ruins alongside police, soldiers and volunteers.
"For the time being we're going to keep on looking for bodies," said Felipe Aguilar, directing Army rescue efforts in the town. "For us, this is the priority right now, because we've already pulled one person out alive."
In the square where the devastated church once stood, hundreds of residents gathered in the only part of the town of 120,000 with any light after the quake, which cut electricity and phone lines and cracked major highways.
Pisco, famous for the grape liquor that bears its name, was worst affected by the quake along with the towns of Ica and Chincha, where hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail when the tremor tore the old building apart.
President Alan Garcia visited the quake-hit areas on Thursday and sent condolences to the families of the victims.
Wednesday's quake was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the South American country during the last century. In 1970, an earthquake killed an estimated 50,000 Peruvians in catastrophic avalanches of ice and mud that buried the town of Yungay.
In downtown Lima, the Peruvian flag flew at half-mast after Garcia declared three days of national mourning.