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Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

El Salvador’s recovery slow from quake

February 15, 2001

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— Quake-stricken regions ran out of running water to drink and blood for the needy Wednesday as the death toll from its second quake in 30 days mounted. The number of the nation's dead climbed to 275, its newly homeless 122,802 and wrecked houses 13,545.

Those figures are just those from a 6.6 earthquake that struck Tuesday morning, adding damages and destruction to a country still recovering from a stronger quake last month. The body count is bound to rise, as two Army patrols searched for victims of landslides in Cuscatlan and San Vicente provinces, where 60 people are missing.

"It was horrible and cruel," said Aminta Sorto, 35, who lost her 3-year-old daughter, Eva Milagro. "Only God knows how I'll face the pain." Sorto lives Cojutepeque, the capital of Cuscatlan, which, along with San Vicente and La Paz, were the provinces hardest hit by Tuesday's earthquake.

All three were shattered: houses on the ground, debris blocks streets and roads, improvised hospitals in parks and parking lots.

"It's like a giant walked over their roofs," said President Francisco Flores. In San Vicente and several towns of La Paz, public parks were used to mourn the dead. The doctors at La Paz's Zacatecoluca Hospital are working on a basketball field. The park benches in San Vicente are used as beds to tend to the emergencies. Mattresses shared by several patients are laid out on the streets.

Guy Gauvreau, World Food Program representative in El Salvador, described the scene as "Dante-esque."

"The most affected families were the poorest ones," he said. Salvador's medical needs were acute, as the 2,432 injured people poured into local hospitals, some of which had been transformed into piles of rubble. The Salvadoran Red Cross announced the agency was out of blood and beds.

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