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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Rescuers abandon quake search
Body recovered in Boumerdes ruins
The grim task of recovering bodies goes on in stifling heat

International rescuers in Algeria have called off their search for survivors of the earthquake which has killed more than 2,000 people.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby in Boumerdes, one of the worst-hit towns, says the camp site serving as the central headquarters of the international teams is a scene of frenzied activity as rescuers prepare to go home.

A tireless search for an 11-year-old girl called Sabrina, who was thought to be trapped in a collapsed apartment block, came to nothing as sniffer dogs failed to locate any survivors.

Mike Penrose, a member of the UK rescue contingent, told the BBC the chances of finding anyone alive were now "so minimal that we feel putting our own people into buildings would be more risk".

According to figures released by the Algerian interior ministry on Sunday, at least 2,047 died in Wednesday's quake, with 8,626 injured. But officials fear the final toll could exceed 3,000 fatalities.

New homes needed

The government plans to set up an emergency housing committee to build new homes for survivors.

Swedish rescuer with sniffer dog near Boumerdes
Swedish rescuer: Teams complained of delays
There is widespread anger at the lack of temporary housing in the stricken area, where thousands are sleeping in the open.

The main priorities are now clean water and sanitation for people in the disaster zone, who remain traumatised by continuing aftershocks, our correspondent says.

On Saturday, angry survivors stoned the motorcade bringing the Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to the Boumerdes region.

Survivors who have lost their families and their homes are accusing the government of turning a blind eye to sub-standard construction - the reason, they say, why public housing was flattened while private homes remain standing.

International rescuers complained about the lack of communication with the Algerian authorities and delays in deployment to sites. Some teams found on arrival that other workers had already been sent in.

"It's the lack of interpreters, lack of transport. I don't want to put the Algerian side down at all but it's very difficult - they tell you one thing and you get there and its another thing," one rescue worker told the BBC.

Infrastructure wrecked

Only dead bodies have been recovered since a toddler, Emilie Kaidi, was plucked alive from a collapsed building on Friday.

ALGERIAN EARTHQUAKES
22 December 1999: 28 dead and 175 injured in north-west
18 August 1994: 172 dead and 288 injured in western region of Mascara
29 October 1989: 30 dead and 400 injured in Tipaza region
10 October 1980: About 3,000 dead and 8,000 injured and in al-Asnam
9 and 16 September 1954: 1,400 dead and 14,000 injured

The relief effort has been hampered by road damage and crowds of anxious relatives in the worst-hit areas.

Remote villages hit by the earthquake have proved particularly difficult to reach, with roads badly cracked and blocked with debris.

After years of conflict between Islamic militants and the security forces the authorities are also reluctant to send rescuers into areas where they might not be safe.

Even Algerian engineers are repairing roads under armed escort.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - which has a team of experts on the scene - is helping to co-ordinate relief efforts.

The agency has already requested $1.5m to provide assistance including medicines, food and blankets.


Did you witness the earthquake?

Use the form below to send us your accounts, some of which will be published below.


I managed to talk to my family in Setif, eastern Algeria for the first time since Black Wednesday. My mum told me that she felt the quake and had a headache that forced her to sit down. My uncle who lives in a block of flats that was built in the French era (Batiments de Nakhla), told me that the lustre(or the lighting set on the roof of his flat) had trembled at the time of the quake.
Abderazak Bakhouche, Algeria/ UK

Thanks to God all my neighbours are still alive
Hacine Abdelkrim Skender, Algiers Algeria
The tremor that Algeria has witnessed was appalling for everybody, particularly for children. Thousands of houses were damaged, more than 90 buildings were devastated. At that time I was at the mosque waiting for the call to prayer. Suddenly I heard a terrible noise of a plane, the windows blew up and the wall collapsed. After the end of tremor everybody rushed into their house. Thanks to God all my neighbours are still alive, now we are spending nights in the streets
Hacine Abdelkrim Skender, Algiers Algeria

My boyfriend Karim Reffai is in the Casbah area of Algiers and I have not been able to contact him. I am so worried as I love him dearly.
Debbie Garcia, England

I've never seen such a thing in my life! This earthquake is unique. The walls seemed to move in all directions and the heavy sound they made while moving deafened us. Condolences to all the victims' families (including my dear teacher Mrs Oubraham Naima and her husband).
Amina B, Ben Aknoun, Algiers, Algeria

I just hope every one is ok back home
Dahmane, UK
I am originally form Thenia which is the epicentre and I have been trying since yesterday evening to call home but no luck, following the news on our Algerian TV which I found useless. I just hope every one is ok back home.
Dahmane, UK

Waves from the earthquake have arrived in Ibiza and Menorca (we're due north), and have been so strong that they have damaged vessels in the harbours here. I can't imagine what it must have been like in Algiers. Send them what help you can.
J. Roberts, Spain

It was the booming noise that first alerted us that something was wrong. However, before we had the chance to do anything the room was violently shaking. My wife took our baby and got under the dining room table. Two friends suggested we go outside. The first shock lasted two or three minutes and smashed plates in the kitchen and brought plaster and paint of the walls. There were some pretty big after shocks throughout the night. The state of many buildings is still uncertain with some having gaping cracks. We pray that there isn't another as lots of buildings in Algiers are unsafe and in disrepair. As I write we are still feeling the aftershocks.
Robert Bailey, Algiers, Algeria

I have never seen anything like it in my life and I'm not even sure if my family are still alive!
Polopy Husir, Algeria

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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC' Jonathan Charles
"There's little chance of finding any more survivors"



SEE ALSO:
'No hope of finding Sabrina alive'
25 May 03  |  England
Fury and despair fill Algerian press
24 May 03  |  Middle East
Grim search for quake survivors
23 May 03  |  Middle East
In pictures: Algeria earthquake
22 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Eyewitness: The earth shook
23 May 03  |  Africa
Deadly history of earthquakes
01 May 03  |  In Depth
Why do they happen?
26 Mar 02  |  Earthquakes
Country profile: Algeria
06 May 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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