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The BBC's David Willis
"A quake which shook virtually all of Central America"
 real 56k

Paul Keen, International Federation of the Red Cross
"These people have been buried in mud, alive"
 real 28k

Keith Allen, British Embassy, El Salvador
"I haven't had any confirmed reports of any trouble for British citizens"
 real 56k

The BBC's Mike Lanchin in San Salvador
"The faint sound of a car horn beneath the mud sends rescue workers scrambling"
 real 28k

Monday, 15 January, 2001, 02:06 GMT
Desperate search for quake survivors
The mudslide buried 400 homes in San Salvador
International rescue teams have been flying into El Salvador as the desperate search for survivors from Saturday's devastating earthquake continues.

Some 340 people are known to have died and hundreds more are missing - most of them in Las Colinas, the worst-hit area of the capital, San Salvador, after a mudslide buried 400 homes.

It was like a wave of dirt covered us - it was horrible

Las Colinas
Emergency workers, aided by Mexican sniffer dogs, are still making desperate efforts to reach remaining survivors buried under the rubble, but hopes are fading as the hours pass.

"We have asked the government of Colombia to donate 3,000 coffins to put them at the disposal of people who cannot afford them," El Salvador's President, Francisco Flores, told a news conference.

He made another urgent plea for foreign aid and said casualty figures were expected to rise.

Some of the country's hospitals are reaching breaking point, and patients are being turned away because medical staff can no longer cope.

Rescuers using sticks or just their bare hands have so far pulled 127 bodies from houses in Las Colinas.

On Sunday afternoon the hopes of relatives and rescue workers were momentarily lifted as three survivors were found alive inside their fallen house.

Airport closed

"It was like a wave of dirt that covered us," said Emilio Renderos, 60, a watchman employed in Las Colinas. "It was horrible."

Some residents blamed recent house construction for the disaster, saying the stability of the hillside had been undermined.

The quake - which measured between 7.6 and 7.9 on the Richter scale - also affected Guatemala, where two people died when houses collapsed in the town of Jalpatagua, near the border with El Salvador. Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were also hit.

Almost 24 hours after the quake, aftershocks were continuing to be felt across the country, sending people back out onto the streets in panic.

Some areas at risk of being in the path of further landslides have been evacuated as the authorities warn that the aftershocks could continue for another two days.

The first foreign team - Mexican rescue workers flown in to a military base east of San Salvador - arrived early on Sunday after President Flores declared a state of emergency and appealed for international assistance.

Taiwan sent a 30-member team, created after the September 1999 earthquake there.

Relief supplies

San Salvador's international airport, 44km (27 miles) south-east of the city was closed as officials assessed damage to the runway and installations.

Spain is sending a team of 75 firefighters and 24 dogs trained to search for survivors, while Switzerland is transporting food, drinking water and medicine urgently.

The American Red Cross promised urgent assistance.

The US Agency for International Development plans to send a planeload of relief supplies from a stockpile in Miami.

Widespread damage

The earthquake quake struck at 1134 local time (1734 GMT). Its epicentre was about 100km (62 miles) off the Pacific coast of El Salvador.

The last major quake in El Salvador was in 1986 when 1,400 people died.

Damage has been spread across the country
But whereas that earthquake mainly affected the capital, this time the damage has been spread across the country.

Twenty-five people were reported dead in one village near the town of San Miguel in south-east El Salvador.

There were reports of a bus being buried by a landslide in Tecolouca, east of the capital.

A century-old church collapsed in Santa Ana to its north-west, killing at least four people.

The Red Cross reported that 13 people died in nearby Sosonati.

President Flores said that refugee centres had already been set up to deal with evacuees from affected areas.

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22 Sep 99 | World
Deadly history of earthquakes
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