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Hundreds Dead After Peru Earthquake

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Hundreds Dead After Peru Earthquake

Hear Guillermo Galdos, En Route to Ica, Peru

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An earthquake in Peru kills more than 300 people. The 7.9 magnitude quake struck near Ica, on the coast, and shook Peru's capital, Lima, for more than a minute. It also produced a small tsunami.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Hundreds of people have been killed and injured after a massive earthquake hit Peru yesterday. The 7.9 magnitude quake struck near the coast, hitting the city of Ica and Pisco particularly hard. Elsewhere, the earthquake produced landslides, generated a small tsunami, and shook the capital, Lima, for more than a minute. Joining us now is reporter Guillermo Galdos, who's on his way to Ica. Good morning.

Mr. GUILLERMO GALDOS (Reporter): Hi. Good morning over there.

YDSTIE: The quake hit shortly after 6:00 p.m. yesterday. Can you tell us what it felt like where you were?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. It actually hit at around 6:40 in the afternoon and it felt pretty hard. I can say it's the hardest earthquake we've had since 1974, for sure. And let's remember that most of the population here in Peru lives on the coast, so obviously there was a tsunami alert so there was a widespread alarm.

YDSTIE: And it shook you relatively significantly where you were?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes, indeed. (Unintelligible) I would say nearly two minutes, and you know, it maintained the same intensity. And then of course we had a couple of tremors after that.

YDSTIE: You're driving now on the highway to Ica, as I understand it. Is that correct?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. Yes. I'm driving now on the roads.

YDSTIE: And what are you seeing as you drive along?

Mr. GALDOS: You know, the roads are completely empty. The lights are off. And there's quite a lot of police cars. And we've seen a convoy of ambulances being escorted by the police cars heading south.

YDSTIE: Have you seen any significant damage so far?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. I've seen some rocks on the main highway and some dents on the road as well. And I understand the road is blocked a few kilometers away from where I am, because of landslides. So the traffic is not flowing.

YDSTIE: And there are pictures of some of the devastation on TV as well?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. Yes. I saw some pictures of the devastation of houses that had fallen down in the center of Lima, and you know, some people - alarm in the streets and stuff like that. But it's not only Ica. The city that has been hit. There's also the Port of Pisco, which - there was - as we know, there was a tsunami alarm. Pisco is one of the biggest ports of the country. Lots of people were being moved towards to high land. And I will say that we can also see some casualties in there, but (unintelligible) has been discarded now.

YDSTIE: So the threat from the tsunami appears to have ended?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes, it has. It has, indeed. A lot of time has gone since the earthquake started in the Pacific, so you know, experts believe that there's no chance a tsunami is going to hit the coast.

YDSTIE: I understand that state doctors have been on a national strike. How has that affected efforts to aid the victims of this earthquake?

Mr. GALDOS: Well, the doctors actually ended - they lifted the strike last night and they've offered to work. And at the moment the strike has been lifted and there's no signs that it's going to restart again.

YDSTIE: What about the government response? Do you have a sense of whether that's being effective and running smoothly?

Mr. GALDOS: We don't know yet. The president has spoken and he has asked for the population to be calm. He has ordered a couple of ministers to go down to the south to assess the situation. And as I mentioned before, I think at the moment there's not much information about what happened.

YDSTIE: Thank you very much.

Mr. GALDOS: You're welcome.

YDSTIE: Guillermo Galdos is a freelance reporter in Peru.

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Powerful Quake Kills Hundreds in Peru

Hear Guillermo Galdos, En Route to Ica, Peru

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A man collects his belongings in Ica Aug. 16, 2007, after a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Peru on Aug. 15, 2007. Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images

A man collects his belongings in Ica Aug. 16, 2007, after a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Peru on Aug. 15, 2007.

Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images

Worst Earthquakes by Magnitude Since 1900

1. Chile (1960): 9.5

2. Alaska (1964): 9.2

3. Off Northern Sumatra Coast (2004): 9.1

4. Kamchatka (1952): 9.0

5. Off Ecuador Coast (1906): 8.8

6. Alaska (1965): 8.7

7. Northern Sumatra (2005): 8.6

8. Assam — Tibet (1950): 8.6

9. Alaska (1957): 8.6

10. Banda Sea (1938): 8.5

10. Kamchatka (1923): 8.5

10. Chile — Argentina Border (1922): 8.5

10. Kuril Islands (1963): 8.5

(Data from USGS)

Quake Help
A look at some of the international aid efforts for Peru following Tuesday's magnitude-8.0 earthquake:
INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: Sending two planes of tents, water, other supplies; giving $205,000 from emergency fund for victims.
UNITED NATIONS: Officials say they have mobilized almost $1 million in aid from several U.N. agency.
EUROPEAN COMMUNITY: Announces at least $1.34 million in U.S. dollars as a contribution to international aid agencies for Peru.
COLOMBIA: Flying 20 tons of water, medicine, blankets and other aid, 20 rescue workers.
BRAZIL: Sending medicine, food and tents "as soon as possible."
The United States, Mexico, Spain, Chile and many other nations and organizations said they are ready to help and are assessing needs.

— Associated Press

Rescuers struggled to reach the center of destruction from a massive 8.0-magnitude quake that struck central Peru, killing at least 450 people and injuring more than 1,500. The toll was expected to rise.

The magnitude of the earthquake, which struck at 6:50 p.m. local time and was centered about 90 miles southeast of Lima, was raised from 7.9 to 8 on Thursday by the U.S. Geological Survey. At least 15 aftershocks followed, some as strong as magnitude-6.3, the USGS said.

The Red Cross said the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers tried to reach the hardest-hit area in Peru's southern desert, in the oasis city of Ica and the nearby port of Pisco, about 125 miles southeast of the capital, Lima.

Pisco's mayor said at least 200 people were buried in the rubble of a church where they had been attending a service.

"The dead are scattered by the dozens on the streets," Mendoza told Lima radio station CPN.

"We don't have lights, water, communications. Most houses have fallen, churches, stores, hotels, everything is destroyed," he said, sobbing.

In Ica, a city of 120,000 near the epicenter, a fourth of the buildings collapsed and at least 57 bodies were brought to the morgue and injured parents and children crowded into a hospital where they waited for attention on cots. Several Ica churches also were damaged, including the historic Senor de Luren church. Cable news station Canal N said 17 people were killed inside one.

In the capital, office workers fled into the streets in panic to escape swaying buildings.

Authorities reported blackouts from downed power lines and a severing of telephone service.

The Peruvian government rushed police, soldiers, doctors and aid to the stricken areas along the coast south of the capital but hundreds of vehicles were paralyzed on the Pan American Highway by giant cracks in the pavement and fallen power lines, the AP Television News cameraman reported from Chincha.

Giorgio Ferrario, head of the Peruvian International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, said teams from the Peruvian Red Cross arrived in Pisco and nearby Ica after 7 ½ hours, about three times as long as it would normally have taken because the earthquake had destroyed the roads to these areas.

He said that he expected the death toll to climb as rescue teams worked in the daylight.

"This is the strongest earthquake I've ever felt," Maria Pilar Mena, 47, a sandwich vendor in Lima, told The Associated Press. "When the quake struck, I thought it would never end."

The quake also knocked out telephone and mobile phone service in the capital and to the provinces, making it impossible to communicate with the Ica area.

Firefighters were called to put out a fire in a shopping center. State doctors called off a national strike that began on Wednesday to handle the emergency.

Police reported that large boulders shook loose from hills and were blocking the country's Central Highway, which heads east into the Andes mountains.

President Alan Garcia also said public schools would be closed Thursday because the buildings may be unsafe.

The last time a quake of magnitude 7.0 or larger struck Peru was in September 2005, when a 7.5-magnitude earthquake rocked Peru's northern jungle, killing four people. In 2001, a 7.9-magnitude quake struck near the southern Andean city of Arequipa, killing 71 people.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press