Salvador unearths quake victims amid aftershocks

Salvador unearths quake victims amid aftershocks

Emergency workers unearthed scores of bodies in El Salvador on Monday but found no survivors as a wave of aftershocks rattled buildings and set off fresh landslides after a quake that killed more than 400 people and may have buried at least 1,200.

Despite an estimated 800 aftershocks registering up to 5 magnitude over the last three days, rescuers used sniffer dogs, picks, shovels and their hands to recover bodies and limbs in Central America's tiniest nation after Saturday's 7.6-magnitude quake.

Increasingly authorities ordered large earth remover-vehicles to plow through mud, tree limbs and destroyed homes to begin the process of reconstruction of this coffee-and sugar-growing nation of 6.2 million people that is slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts.

Rescuers refused to give up all hope of finding more survivors beneath the earth and rubble strewn across many communities after the worst quake in Salvador in more than a decade.

But they failed to repeat the success of late Sunday when they hauled a 22-year-old amateur rock musician, who had survived over 30 hours beneath rubble kept alive with oxygen and blood, local media reported.

Raquel Barrera, six weeks pregnant, lost her son and husband-to-be when an avalanche of mud and boulders buried their home. "We were going to get married in a week or two," said Barrera, 33, a pharmaceutical saleswoman, who was working away from the area when the quake struck.

"I'm pregnant and that gives me the will to live."

Foreign governments rushed in helicopters, dogs and veteran teams who have helped after quakes and plane crashes around the world. Thousands of emergency workers and volunteers also struggled to deliver food, medicine, blankets and tents to the thousands left homeless and evacuate some of the hundreds of injured people.

Most of the dead continued to be pulled from the rubble in the suburb of Santa Tecla about 12.5 miles (15 km) west of the capital San Salvador, where a massive mudslide engulfed as many as 500 middle-class homes.

One 80-year-old woman died from hundreds of stings after swarms of bees raged around hills after Saturday's quake attacking several people, hospital officials said.


Government officials, who planned to update their estimate of fatalities later Monday, said emergency workers' and witness reports of bodies found Monday would certainly lift the death toll above the current 403 in this country of 6.2 million people.

The quake also injured 779 people and left at least 1,200 missing and presumed to have been buried, according to El Salvador's National Emergency Committee.

President Francisco Flores has ordered 3,000 coffins from Colombia.

Emergency workers reached for the first time Monday Comasagua, a town of roughly 18,000 people about 18 miles (28 km) east of San Salvador in the nation's main coffee-growing region. Officials estimated about 40 people had died after an avalanche of boulders and mud leveled dozens of homes.

"My mommy is under the earth. She was trapped in the mudslide. I wanted to go and help her but I could not do anything," schoolgirl Claudia Escamilla quietly told local television. Her look was glazed over and her face was pale.

Most survivors stared in silence at the ground where their relatives and homes were buried. Some sobbed alone while others shouted above the clatter of helicopter blades pleading with rescuers to bring them food.

Aid was rushed in from abroad, including U.S. helicopters, Spanish sniffer dogs, Turkish and French medical personnel and search and rescue equipment and paramedics from around Latin America.

France alone was sending nearly 150 medical and emergency personal who are expected to arrive by Tuesday.

Funds were committed too, as Britain pledged $885,000 in emergency aid, the European Commission promised an initial $1.88 million and Japan $650,800. Italy extended $3.66 million in aid and said it would send a team of medical experts and nongovernment organization workers to assess the situation and see how best to allocate the funds.

The quake, whose epicenter was about 65 miles (105 km) southeast of the capital San Salvador, off the Pacific coast, affected areas throughout the sugar-and coffee-growing nation.

The quake was felt across El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras and as far north as Mexico City.

Guatemalan officials said four more bodies were discovered in that country on Sunday, raising the death toll there to six. Other Central American nations reported no fatalities.

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