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Wave of refugees quits Peru quake ruins

by Staff Writers
Pisco, Peru (AFP) Aug 22, 2007
The giant quake that wrecked this Pacific coastal town last week has set off a wave of refugees, driving up to 40 percent of its people to quit their ruined homes and move away, the Peruvian government said Wednesday.

"Between 30 and 40 percent of the inhabitants have been forced to leave" Pisco, which formerly had a population of 130,000 people, Social Development and Women's Affairs Minister Virginia Borra told AFP.

"There are no official figures that identify the scale of the problem," she said, stressing her number was an estimate. A census is under way of the towns affected by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake -- of which Pisco was worst hit.

The quake killed 540 people in the area, according to an official toll, and destroyed around 85 percent of Pisco, leaving residents camping amid the ruins as the threat of disease and the stench of bodies under the rubble grew.

"It's definitely no longer possible to find any survivors," fire chief Alberto Marticorena told AFP as teams continued combing the wreckage. At least two more bodies were pulled form the rubble of a hotel Wednesday.

More bodies were believed to be under the ruins of the Embassy hotel, frequented by backpackers, which buried an unknown number of people when it collapsed.

A week on from the August 15 disaster, a daily stream of families with their belongings packed into cars, trucks and tricycles heads out of town on the Panamerican highway.

Many have relatives in the capital Lima some 240 kilometers (150 miles) up the coast, or in nearby towns.

"I can't stay here, my house is leveled. I'm off to Ayacucho where my eldest son lives," said Nilda Escobedo, a mother accompanied by two of her children.

"I hope to come back soon when my house is rebuilt, because I was born here and I will die here."

Aid continued to arrive, but the Spanish non-government aid group K-9 accused the Peruvian government of not properly distributing the international aid including donations from Japan, Europe and elsewhere in Latin America.

"The Peruvian authorities are not distributing it to those affected. They are only sharing out some in the center of Pisco and storing it in military airbases," K-9 rescuer Pedro Frutas told reporters in Argentina after visiting Pisco.

People living in the surrounding area have also complained that much material aid is still stacked in Pisco's air base.

The head of the Civil Defense service Luis Palomino on state television said prefabricated houses had not yet been delivered because health procedures still had to be completed in the stricken areas.

A roving group of specialist rescuers from Mexico known as "the moles" complained that they were forbidden from joining the search for bodies. Marticorena said that they did not respect safety norms.

Another specialist relief crew was also due to set off on a mission to rescue and give first aid to dogs, cats and other animals affected in the area.

Elsewhere, there were glimmers of normal life returning. In the town if Ica, also hit by the quake, textile factories were operating again, at 30 percent capacity. Half of the 7,000 workers turned up.

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Death toll mounts as floods, heat wave batter US
Chicago (AFP) Aug 23, 2007
Unrelenting storms and floods have forced thousands of people from their homes, while other states have wilted in a record-breaking heatwave with the death toll from the extreme weather hitting the US rising to almost 50 Thursday.

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