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Red Cross, Crescent Volunteers Assist Algerian Quake Victims - 2003-05-22

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says hundreds of Algerian Red Crescent workers and volunteers responded rapidly to the earthquake late Wednesday that killed more than 600 people. Officials say more than 4,000 people injured during the worst quake to hit Algeria in 23 years.

The Red Cross says the Algerian Red Crescent was on the scene soon after the earthquake. It says it is working with Algerian authorities in search and rescue operations and in administering first aid and transporting victims to the hospitals.

The Head of Red Cross Operations, Ian Logan, says he has heard the search and rescue part of the operation may be nearing its end.

"I do not think it would be safe to say that they are winding down, but they feel as though they are reaching the point in which they are now starting to look for people who may be deeply buried," he said. " They seem to feel that they may have got the most easily reached out. I would not say that it is over yet. But, it seems to be stabilizing somewhat."

The quake that registered 6.7 on the Richter scale was centered near Thenia, a coastal town about 60 kilometers from Algiers. Officials say this is the strongest quake to hit the country since 1980, when two quakes in the northwestern city of Al Asnam killed 2,500 people.

Mr. Logan says the Red Crescent is preparing for the post-rescue emergency phase.

"We do not want to add to the confusion by bringing in uncoordinated goods which are impracticable or unusable at this moment," he said. "What is needed right now is shelter to get them covered for the next coming night, blankets to keep them warm, generators to provide some power, and probably to make sure that there is clean water. The rest of the stuff probably can be made available in the country. So, we would normally be looking for cash support when we put out our appeal which we are working on right now, that aspect of the response."

Mr. Logan says about 5,000 people have been made homeless by the quake and thousands of others are reluctant to return to their homes because of fears of aftershocks.