Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Friday, 17 August 2007 14:53 UK

Search for Peru quake survivors

Soldiers carry the corpse of a child in Pisco, Peru
Search teams are finding more bodies than survivors in the rubble

Rescuers are continuing into a third day the hunt for survivors of the earthquake that hit Peru's central coast, as fresh tremors shake the area.

They were given hope when a man was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed church in the town of Pisco, more than 24 hours after the tremor.

The death toll from Wednesday's 8.0-magnitude quake has risen above 500, according to Peru's fire service.

A series of aftershocks have hit the affected areas, causing panic.

An aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 hit Peru south of the capital Lima on Friday, the US Geological Survey said.

The worst damage from the main earthquake was in the coastal cities of Ica and Pisco, south of Lima.

Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, while power supplies, telecommunications and road links have been severely disrupted.

Hospitals and morgues have been overwhelmed, and the bodies of many victims that have been recovered from the rubble are lying on the streets.

The head of the Peruvian fire service, Roberto Ocno, told AFP news agency: "The toll has jumped to between 500 and 510 dead and 1,600 injured. There are dead trapped under houses."

'A miracle'

In Pisco, firefighters, police officers, soldiers and volunteers worked through Thursday night under floodlights to dig through the ruins of the church in the main square.

I never experienced such a long and strong earthquake in Peru. It felt like it would never end
Marcia, Lima

Hundreds of people were buried when the building collapsed during a Mass, but the discovery of the male survivor lifted the rescuers.

"This is virtually a miracle, hopefully we can find more," said Carlos Cordova Gomez, chief of Peru's voluntary firefighters.

But, as dusk fell, Health Minister Carlos Vallejos said hopes were dwindling.

"We keep losing hope of finding someone alive after 24 hours have passed," he told the Associated Press.

The BBC's Luis del Valle, in Pisco, says people are in shock and local civil defence officials have acknowledged they have been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

A local Oxfam spokesman, Renato Guinaraes, said getting relief supplies to those who needed them was a huge challenge.

"There is a problem with a lack of shelter. People are suffering because of the cold weather, lack of potable water and general conditions of living," he told the BBC.

"The overall infrastructure of the cities was totally destroyed, not only the hospital but most of the cities are simply destroyed."

The authorities are still trying to reach remote villages and hamlets in the region, from where there has so far been no news.

Relief effort

The government said helicopters and planes were taking emergency aid to affected areas, and injured people are being airlifted out.

Collapsed building in Canete

President Alan Garcia has visited the region and sent condolences to the families of the victims. Three days of national mourning have been declared.

An international humanitarian relief effort has been mobilised.

Peru's neighbours - including Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile - have sent relief supplies.

Help is also coming from the United States, Canada, Spain, Italy and France.

The United Nations said it was ready to help, while the International Federation of the Red Cross said it had sent two planes loaded with supplies. The latter also launched an appeal for emergency aid.

The earthquake happened in one of the most seismically active regions of the world.

In 1970, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake high in the Peruvian Andes triggered a landslide that buried the town of Yungay and killed 66,000 people.

Map of affected area
Earthquake struck on Wednesday at 1841 local time
The 8.0-magnitude earthquake was centred just off the coast of Peru
Two tectonic plates clash at this region, the Nazca plate and the South American plate
There is about 7-8cm (3in) movement between the plates a year

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Rescuers try to search the rubble

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