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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 12:03 GMT
Eyewitness: Earthquake devastation
Damage to San Salvador
San Salvador suffered extensive damage
By Jeremy McDermott in San Salvador

Central America is literally picking up the pieces after Saturday's massive earthquake.

The tremors were felt strongly in Guatemala City, but the damage was negligible.

Travelling through Guatemala and into El Salvador, the effects became more evident.


But it was a few kilometres outside San Salvador that the scale of the devastation became apparent.

The Pan-American highway cuts through the mountains before it reaches San Salvador.

Here, the tremors had shaken loose huge chunks of rock, causing landslides and massive boulders to crash down on the road.

Digging frantically

One boulder occupied an entire lane of the highway.

It was clear where it had landed; a truck sat beside it, completely flattened, blood evident from the crushed cabin.

All along the highway on the way into the capital are shacks of the poor who eke out a living repairing punctures and selling food and drink to passing motorists.

Their fragile huts were destroyed, and they were piling up their few meagre possessions and sticks of furniture on the side of the road.

Those that could were rebuilding their shacks from the debris.

But many were not so lucky, and groups were digging frantically at what looked like piles of newly-deposited soil.

The earth had tumbled down from the sides of the passes and buried the shacks.

Tears

Weeping relatives had little hope of finding their loved ones alive.

They just wanted to recover the bodies so that they could give them a decent burial.

Santa Tecla is the town that merges with the capital, San Salvador, and was one of the worst hit areas.

The earthquake's seeming selectivity is apparent here.

Poor houses collapsed next to more modern, concrete structures left virtually untouched.

Those that were not digging or rescuing were in the overflowing churches, praying for the souls of loved ones or thanking God they were still alive.

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See also:

14 Jan 01 | Americas
In pictures: Trail of destruction
14 Jan 01 | Americas
Central America: Disaster zone
14 Jan 01 | Americas
International aid for quake victims
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