• 86°
franklin county times

Aftershocks rock San Salvador

By Staff
MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE n Destruction in Santa Tecla near San Salvador Sunday is shown from the air following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that caused a massive landslide.AP photo.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) Strong aftershocks Sunday sent rescuers fleeing from the search for survivors of an earthquake that killed more than 400 people. But they quickly resumed the desperate hunt for hundreds of missing, using sniffer dogs, shovels and their bare hands.
Workers rescued a 22-year-old man trapped for 30 hours under slabs of concrete, reviving dwindling hopes that more survivors might still be found in a quake-triggered landslide in the Las Colinas neighborhood near the capital.
Drawn by tapping on concrete slabs, workers dug for hours until they reached Sergio Moreno late Sunday. Red Cross volunteer Lucio Castellano said he suffered dehydration and a cut leg, but was in good condition. Moreno was one of only a handful of survivors from the landslide that engulfed hundreds.
As the death toll rose from Saturday's magnitude 7.6 quake, President Francisco Flores said he had asked Colombia for 3,000 coffins and overwhelmed officials began to bury some victims in common graves.
The strongest of more than 660 aftershocks led rescuers to scale back digging in the Las Colinas neighborhood that was buried by dirt that came crashing down from a mountainside on Saturday morning.
We still don't know anything,'' said Gladis de Carman, searching for her missing daughter and crying as she spoke on a cell phone to her mother. And now the ground is shaking again under us.''
The largest aftershock , measured at magnitude 5.4, caused more of the hillside to collapse late Sunday afternoon, sending rescuers fleeing in panic. None was injured, and they soon returned to the gruesome work.
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.
We're looking for our friends here. This can't wait,'' said a frustrated Juan Jose Lopez, who had come with six friends to try to dig out an elderly couple and was frustrated by the delays.
Saturday's quake off of El Salvador's coast was felt from northern Panama to central Mexico a distance of more than 1,100 miles. Sunday's aftershocks were centered within a few miles of the capital, according to local seismologists.
Workers at a temporary morgue near the disaster scene said 182 bodies had been pulled from Las Colinas on Sunday.
Dr. Mario Afredo Hernandez of the coroner's office, the Institute of Legal Medicine, said about half had not yet been identified, and those were being buried in common graves because there was no place to keep them.
Flores told a news conference he had asked Colombia for 3,000 coffins, but said it was premature'' to evaluate the damage. In the post-quake chaos, rescuing took precedence over accurate counting.
Red Cross official Mildred Sandoval reported that by late Sunday, the confirmed death toll in the quake nationwide had risen to 403.
National Police counted 2,000 injured, 4,692 houses destroyed and 16,148 damaged, and authorities estimated 1,000 people were still missing. Eighty-seven churches were damaged as well including the ruined Our Lady of Guadalupe Church overlooking Las Colinas.
We will need to do some crying today, and there will be time for that. But we all need to understand how lucky we have been,'' the Rev. Peter Danaher of Lindenhurst, N.Y., told somber, red-eyed parishioners worshipping before the rubble of brick and stone that had been their church.
The only surviving wall behind Danaher displayed a cross in a stained-glass window and an icon of the Virgin. The sound of hymns drifted a few hundred yards down the ravine to rescuers digging in Las Colinas.
I am not worried about rebuilding the church. That can be done in five months or five years, it doesn't matter,'' Danaher said. That is a question of brick and concrete. Ours is a question of lives and human spirit.''
Few survivors had been recovered from Las Colinas, but hundreds of people worked without sleep to hunt for more, many using only shovels, even bare hands.
It is very dangerous here, but we are going to keep hunting. We are going to take them out alive or dead,'' said Juan Sanchez, a Green Cross rescue worker.
Fearful of the aftershocks that reached magnitude 4.6, many residents of San Salvador slept in the streets or cars overnight, tablecloths or curtains covering windows for privacy.
The nation's main airport reopened Sunday afternoon after being closed more than a day. That eased the way for more relief.
Pope John Paul II urged international assistance for the nation of 6 million.
Mexico was first to send substantial help: five planeloads of food, medicine and 150 specialists. The United States followed with rescue crews and supplies.
Offers of assistance came from Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Britain, Panama, even Guatemala, which itself suffered six deaths in the quake.
Guatemala was supplying 40 percent of the electricity used by El Salvador's quake-crippled power grid, up from less than 10 percent.
Police said seven people died in San Miguel, 70 miles southeast of the capital, five of them when a hillside collapsed on coffee-pickers. A prematurely born infant died when the loss of power cut hospital respirators.
On Sunday, scores of patients dozed on gurneys and mattresses beneath tarps and palm trees before the quake-damaged hospital.
Mayor Jose Perez said 95 percent of the houses were badly damaged in Comasagua, 17 miles west of the capital, and he said four people died.
The Red Cross said 13 people died in Sosonati west of the capital and 10 were killed when a landslide buried a bus on a highway east of San Salvador.