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At Least 450 Dead in Peru Earthquake


Rescue workers in Peru are searching for survivors in the rubble of an earthquake that killed at least 450 people. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports the quake toppled buildings and homes south of the capital.

Victims of the 8.0 magnitude quake flooded into partly damaged hospitals and gathered in the streets in the towns of Peru's central coast. Medical workers said they were struggling to treat people with broken bones and bruises caused by falling objects from the Wednesday evening quake.

The quake was centered some 145 kilometers south of the capital, Lima, where several towns reported massive damage. Peruvian officials said several people were killed in the town of Pisco when a church roof collapsed during a religious service. Rescue workers said they feared survivors could be trapped in the rubble of the church or other buildings.

Peru's president, Alan Garcia, declared a state of emergency for affected areas in central Peru and he also warned of more aftershocks.

Garcia said that energy is retained in the tectonic plates of the earth after the initial quake and may cause low intensity aftershocks that will not be as strong as the quake late Wednesday.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that central Peru has been hit by more than a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or higher since the initial quake.

Some residents in the affected areas complained that relief aid was slow to come, including one woman in the town of Chincha.

She said all the houses fell down, and people have nowhere to sleep. She said no one came to help or even ask if residents were okay.

In Washington, a White House spokesman said President Bush sent his condolences to the people of Peru, and said the United States was prepared to send relief assistance if needed.

A U.S. military spokesman said the hospital ship Comfort visited Peru a few days earlier during a humanitarian tour of Latin America. He said the ship could leave Ecuador where it is now docked and return to Peru, if Peruvian officials request U.S. assistance.

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