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The BBC's Tom Gibb in Sao Paulo
"This is a very mountainous area - communications are very bad"
 real 56k

Eyewitness, William Beecham
"It seems to be getting back to normal"
 real 56k

Sunday, 24 June, 2001, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
Earthquake rocks Peru
A classroom destroyed in the earthquake
The quake was one of the strongest in recent years
A strong earthquake lasting more than a minute has hit southern Peru, killing at least 47 people and injuring hundreds.


For the love of God, please send help

A woman in Moquegua
Civil defence officials said 17 people had died in the country's second city, Arequipa - 750km south-east of Lima - while another 14 had been killed in Moquegua, 100km further south.

Correspondents say the number of casualties is expected to rise when contact is made with more remote rural areas.

The quake struck about 600km south-east of the Peruvian capital Lima at 1533 local time (2033 GMT) on Saturday and sent residents fleeing from their homes in panic.

Andes map
It had a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale and its epicentre was in the Pacific Ocean close to the Peruvian coast, according to the US National Earthquake Information Centre in Golden, Colorado.

The Peruvian Geophysical Institute, however, reported that the tremor measured 6.9 and that the epicentre was some 80km inland.

Chile and Bolivia also felt the earthquake. In northern Chile, 30 people were injured, four of them seriously.

There have been no immediate reports of fatalities or property damage in Bolivia.

Many Peruvians phoned in to radio stations, frantic for news of their family members in affected areas.

People fleeing the earthquake
Residents rushed from their homes
Some callers say that there are thousands of people homeless in southern Peru. Many areas have lost power and communications.

The heaviest damage is said to have occurred in Arequipa, known as Peru's "white city" because of its fine colonial architecture and churches.

Television pictures showed that one of the towers of the city's cathedral had collapsed, scattering rubble in the street, and another was badly damaged and threatening to fall.

Two Peruvian cargo planes with 22 tons of food, blankets and medicine were on their way to Arequipa.

Aftershocks

The quake was also felt in the Peruvian towns of Cuzco, Pisco, Puno and Mollendo.

The BBC's South America correspondent Tom Gibb says the earthquake struck in the afternoon, giving the rescue services only a few hours of daylight.

Operations have also been hampered by a series of aftershocks, with many people worried about returning to their houses.

Peru was battered by a strong 7.7 magnitude tremor in 1970 that killed approximately 70,000 people.

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See also:

14 Feb 01 | World
Deadly history of earthquakes
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
24 Jun 01 | Americas
In pictures: Peru quake
05 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Peru
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