Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Garcia calls for order after Peru quake


Peruvian President Alan Garcia called for the orderly distribution of emergency supplies as desperate victims of a large earthquake on Peru's southern coast looted markets and blocked arriving aid trucks.

The delivery of goods "must be gradual," Garcia said on Friday, adding that he had ordered 200 navy officials to the area to maintain order.

But television images showed hungry survivors leaving pharmacies and markets with bags full of food and other items. Some people ransacked a public market, while mobs looted a refrigerated trailer and blocked aid trucks.

Few buildings still stood in the fishing city of Pisco in the wake of the quake on Wednesday afternoon, killing at least 510 people.

Garcia predicted that "a situation approaching normality" would return in 10 days, but he acknowledged that reconstruction would take far longer.

Two sunrises after the earthquake all but leveled this city of 90,000 people, workers continued to pull bodies from the rubble.

The death count stood at 510, Peru's fire department said, and hopes of finding more survivors have faded.

At least 1,500 people suffered injuries and Garcia said 80,000 people had lost loved ones, homes or both.

On Friday afternoon, a Peruvian navy helicopter carrying food and medicine crash-landed onto the roof of a one-story building in Ica, near Pisco's main plaza, local media said.

No injuries were reported.

The relief effort was finally getting organized on Friday as police identified bodies and civil defense teams ferried in food. Housing officials assessed the need for new homes and in several towns long lines formed under intense sun to collect water from soldiers.

In Lima, Peruvians donated tons of supplies as food, water, tents and blankets began arriving in the quake zone.

Taiwan International Health Action (IHA) also sent a medical mission on Friday to Peru to help with post-disaster relief.

The Taiwan government made a donation of US$100,000 to the South American country, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said.

Peruvian soldiers also began distributing aluminum caskets. In Pisco's cemetery, lined with collapsed tombs and tumbled crosses, a man painted the names of the dead on headstones.

"My dear child, Gloria!" wailed Julia Siguis, her hands spread over two small coffins holding her cousin and niece. "Who am I going to call now? Who am I going to call?"

All day, people with no way to refrigerate corpses rushed coffins through the cemetery gate, which leaned dangerously until a bulldozer came to knock it down.

Canal N television reported that a woman identified as Ericka Gutierrez gave birth to a son in a makeshift hospital in Pisco.

"Now everything is new for me," said the baby's father, Jesus Boquillaza, whose home was destroyed. "My son will give me the strength to go forward. I'm very happy because now I have a new life and someone to fight for."

More aftershocks jolted the region, frightening survivors, who fell to their knees in prayer, but doing little damage.

Survivors told tales of lost loved ones -- a girl selling sweets outside a bank and a young woman studying dance who was crushed when buildings made of unreinforced adobe and brick collapsed.

About 15 guests and workers could not get out as the five-story Embassy Hotel accordioned onto its ground floor. A billiard hall buried as many as 20 people.

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