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Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 11:49 GMT
Survivors' despair after Salvador mudslide
Las Colinas
Civilians joined rescue workers in the frantic search
Survivors of the devastating mudslide which buried part of a San Salvador suburb described what sounded like a swarm of bees as the mountain gave way under the pressure of Saturday's earthquake.

I heard a big roar, and I saw the mountain come tumbling down over the houses

Tonnes of mud was dislodged above the Las Colinas suburb during the first few seconds of the earthquake and buried hundreds of houses in its path.

Residents scrabbled at the earth with tools and their bare hands in a frantic attempt to uncover their relatives.

Distraught relatives in Las Colinas
Hope is running out that loved ones will be found
Only parts of mud-covered roofs showed where houses had once stood, while other homes had disappeared altogether.

"I have never felt so useless, and so sad, to see dozens of children, teenagers and old people digging with their hands through the mud... looking for their father, mother, brother or sister," said a photographer at the scene.

I can't leave, I can't stop... My brother is down there

Las Colinas resident
After the first six hours of frantic digging through the debris of cement blocks, mud and upturned trees, only 20 or so bodies had been found out of up to 1,200 feared buried under the landslide.

By Sunday morning, only three people were dug out alive. One of them, a young servant girl was pinned under concrete blocks.

"She's calm, but she said she can't feel her legs," a rescue worker said, after comforting the girl at the bottom of a narrow hole that had been dug into the mud.

Rescue workers remove a body from scene of mudslide
Another body recovered from the mudslide
Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, a man was digging continuously - even though he was not certain where his crushed home was located.

"I can't leave, I can't stop... My brother is down there," the man said.

Another man, Reynaldo Maradiaga, described how he started to run when the earthquake began rocking his home.

"I heard a big roar, and I saw the mountain come tumbling down over the houses," he said.

Country-wide devastation

The damage seems to have been concentrated in certain areas, while others have been virtually unaffected.

Television pictures showed collapsed houses and wrecked roads all over the country. Children could be seen wandering through collapsed shantytowns.

Bodies recovered from mudslide
Away from the destruction, bodies line the streets of Las Colinas
A bus on its usual run between Zacatecoluca and San Salvador was split in half by falling rocks.

"I told the driver: 'Look, the stones are falling, stop'. We felt the tremor, and rocks fell," said one of the passengers on a local television station.

"When he saw that the bus was no longer moving he got out through the window and I got out from one further behind, then a lady and a boy... it's a miracle from God I escaped," she added.

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22 Sep 99 | World
Deadly history of earthquakes
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