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article image- SOS For El Salvador - ''Wave Of Dirt'' Buries Hundreds

By Digital Journal Staff     Jan 14, 2001 in Technology
SANTA TECLA, El Salvador - Rescuers using bare hands dug for survivors Sunday after a “wave of dirt” buried hundreds of homes in El Salvador when Saturday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck the region which was felt from northern Panama to central Mexico — a distance of more than 1,100 miles.
At least 381 people were dead and 771 were injured, authorities said. Police said 16,148 houses were damaged and 4,202 were destroyed. Only three survivors had been recovered from Las Colinas, but hundreds of people worked without sleep to hunt for more.
President Francisco Flores said in a news conference that the death toll could go higher and that material damage was still incalculable. “We have made a request to the government of Colombia for 3,000 coffins to put at the disposition of citizens,” he said. “Any evaluation of damage and what it will take to rebuild is still very premature.”
The worst-hit area was Santa Tecla, where the Red Cross reported that 1,200 people were missing after 500 homes were buried in a massive landslide. Body-hunting dogs, sent in from the United States and Mexico, sniffed for the living and the dead under the blinding sun at Las Colinas, a neighborhood of Santa Tecla, before the new quakes caused bulldozers to retreat and soldiers to seek safer spots. Some volunteers expressed frustration.
“The situation is grave,” said Mauricio Ferrer, chief of the National Emergency Committee. The nation’s main airport was closed and hundreds of roads were blocked by landslides, slowing relief. Electrical power remained cut off across the country, and the international airport was closed, hampering efforts to bring in relief supplies.
Canada's minister for international co-operation, Maria Minna, was in San Salvador when the quake hit. Minna, who is on a tour of Central America announcing various Canadian aid projects, was visiting a small factory when the quake struck. "It was like being in a box that was being shaken," she said. "It was quite frightening. Even when we got outside, it was like being on a moving platform."
Immediately after the quake, Canada announced a $1-million, emergency-aid package from Canada for the stricken Central American country. Arrangements were also being made to send clean water, sanitation materials, blankets, shovels, picks, tools, first aid equipment and power generators, to victims of the quake. Two Hercules transport aircraft would be sent to El Salvador with relief supplies, leaving from Trenton on Sunday night.
Offers of assistance also came from: United States, Taiwan, Panama and even Guatemala, which itself suffered damage — and two deaths — in the quake. Pope John Paul II urged the international community Sunday to come to the aid of earthquake victims in Central America.
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