Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Saturday, 18 August 2007 18:32 UK

Anxiety stalks quake survivors

Three days after the most powerful earthquake to hit Peru in more than 30 years, shell-shocked residents near its epicentre in Pisco are still picking through the rubble of their city.

The BBC's Dan Collyns, in Pisco, says a five-storey hotel in the city centre has become the focus for the continuing rescue operations.

Woman sleeping outside wrecked house in Pisco
Many of the town's residents have been left homeless

A few hundred metres away in the main square, recovered bodies are lying out in the open. There aren't enough coffins to bury all of them, our correspondent says.

One side of the square is dominated by the colonial San Clemente church.

All that remains is the facade after the shockwave made the roof cave in, burying the congregation.

The destruction and lack of authority has led to looting and some violence. People have begun arming themselves to protect their properties, despite the presence of soldiers sent to maintain security.

More than 600 prisoners escaped during the earthquake after their coastal jail was destroyed and became flooded.

Police are hunting for fugitives, among them rapists and murderers, which, our correspondent says, raises the level of anxiety and fear throughout this zone.

On the opposite side of the square from the church, there is now a makeshift tent hospital.

Despite international pledges of aid and the government relief efforts, many people in Pisco feel abandoned and left to their own devices.

At night, hundreds of people gather for warmth around fires in the streets for fear that aftershocks may bring their damaged homes down on their heads as they sleep.

Dawn shines light on Pisco's sorrow
17 Aug 07 |  Americas
Peru quake: Eyewitness accounts
16 Aug 07 |  Have Your Say
Country profile: Peru
12 May 07 |  Country profiles
How earthquakes happen
01 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment

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