Powerful Quake Kills Hundreds in Peru A massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake strikes off the Peruvian coast near the capital, Lima, rocking the country's southern coast. The city of Ica, with a population of 650,000, is the hardest hit.
NPR logo Powerful Quake Kills Hundreds in Peru

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