Our city is destroyed, says Mayor Juan Mendoza
More than 16,000 homes are lost in the 8.0 temblor. The mayor of coastal Pisco says, 'Our city is destroyed.'
source | Los Angeles Times
The death toll in a massive earthquake that battered Peru's Pacific
coast soared toward 500 on Thursday as rescue workers struggled to
reach scenes of devastation and stunned victims appealed for medical
aid, water and coffins.
dug beneath the rubble in the cities of Pisco and Ica and the nearby
town of Chincha, all situated near the epicenter of the magnitude 8.0
quake south of the capital, Lima. The damage and casualties appeared to
be concentrated in those three communities, which also lost power and
"Our city is destroyed," Mayor Juan Mendoza
of Pisco, a port city of about 130,000 people, said, sobbing in an
interview with Peruvian news media. "The dead are scattered by the
dozens on the streets."
Mendoza estimated that 70% of the
structures in his city had been leveled. Other officials said about 200
people were believed to have died in Pisco.
said that a majority of buildings were destroyed in the city of Ica,
just to the southeast. The mayor of that city, Mariano Nacimiento,
estimated the death toll there at 70 and said that about 800 residents
had been injured.
"We need medicines, tents, food and whatever help there is," he told Peruvian media.
National Civil Defense Institute's director of operations, Aristides
Mussio, told reporters that the overall death toll stood at 437 and
that more than 16,000 homes had been destroyed.
The quake struck
Wednesday evening when many people were in church for services marking
the Roman Catholic holy day of the Feast of the Assumption.
an evening when many strong aftershocks were recorded, residents of the
quake- ravaged region awoke Thursday to a catastrophic panorama of
collapsed buildings, ruined roadways, fallen lampposts and dazed
"Sir, we are afraid," Marina Yupanki, 32, an Ica
resident whose adobe home had been destroyed, told a reporter for Canal
N, a cable TV news station. "We are sick; we are seeking help for our
Others said they were afraid to return to their homes, worried about new temblors and collapses.
are not going back in our houses again," Clara Obregon, 65, of Ica,
told Canal N. "We plan to stay out here on the streets. We want tents
and something to eat. We haven't eaten."
President Alan Garcia
flew to Pisco to find residents pleading for medical aid, water and
coffins. Many corpses remained on the streets early Thursday, in some
cases watched over by relatives, the media reported.
17 of the dead in Pisco were reported to have perished when two
churches collapsed during evening services. Peruvian television showed
images of dazed residents lingering in the city's central plaza and
amid ruins. Many wrapped themselves in blankets against the desert
chill of the Southern Hemispheric winter.
Garcia declared that he would stay until aid and rescue problems were solved.
"Please wait; have patience," he told an imploring crowd. He declared the area a disaster zone.
in the worst-hit regions were overwhelmed. Patients were being treated
in hallways and in makeshift aid centers set up outside. The air force
and commercial airlines where planning flights to ferry the injured to
hospitals in Lima and elsewhere.
Pledges of help came from many aid agencies and foreign governments.
President Bush and his wife, Laura, offered their condolences. Gordon
Johndroe, a deputy White House spokesman, told reporters in Crawford,
Texas, where the Bushes are vacationing at their ranch, that "the
United States stands ready to assist Peru, and is willing to provide
assistance based on the needs identified by the government of Peru, as
well as United States government teams there."
said a team from the U.S. Agency for International Development had
begun assessing the situation in Lima and that search-and-rescue teams
were "on standby should they be needed."
Rescue efforts were being hampered by damage to roads. Officials
reported deep cracks in highways and boulders blocking access on major
roads to the south, the result of landslides.
The damaged roads also thwarted efforts by worried relatives to drive to the hardest-hit areas to check on loved ones.
During the confusion of the quake's aftermath, hundreds of prisoners were reported to have fled from a prison in Chincha.
was really hard to control all the prisoners," Manuel Aguilar, vice
president of Peru's prison authority, told the Reuters news agency.
major shrine in Ica, the 17th century Church of Nuestro Señor de Luren,
also was damaged, but it was not clear whether anyone inside was hurt.
still not sure if there were victims," said Father Carlos Henao. A
church bell tower collapsed, he said, but a revered image of Jesus
apparently came through intact.
Officials reported hundreds of aftershocks, including jolts early Thursday measuring 6.0.
As the aftershocks continued, the U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the magnitude of the Wednesday evening quake to 8.0 from 7.9.
comparison, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake is estimated at a
magnitude of 7.8 to 8.25. The magnitude 6.7 Northridge quake in 1994
was much smaller but caused more than $40 billion in damage. Each
change of 1 magnitude increases ground motion by 10 times and releases
about 32 times more energy, according to the USGS.
Wednesday was centered in the Pacific about 90 miles southeast of Lima,
at a depth of about 25 miles, authorities said.
The shaking was
felt along a wide swath of coastal Peru, including the capital, where
thousands of residents fled their houses Wednesday and early Thursday.
Three fatalities were reported in the Lima area from heart attacks,
"We don't know how long the aftershocks will
continue, but it's sure that they will continue," Hernando Tavera,
director of seismology at the Geophysical Institute of Peru, told the
Andina press agency.
Authorities here said that the earthquake
was the region's deadliest since a magnitude 7.9 quake struck north of
Lima in 1970, causing more than 50,000 deaths.