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Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Saturday, 18 August 2007 17:52 UK

Grim quake toll from Peru church

Remains of San Clemente church
The church's congregation was buried when the roof caved in

Rescuers say they have recovered 127 bodies from a church in Peru which was almost totally destroyed in Wednesday's massive earthquake.

The San Clemente church is in Pisco, one of the towns worst affected by the 8.0-magnitude tremor that hit the country's coast, killing at least 500.

Meanwhile, Peru's leaders have called for calm amid the looting of aid trucks and fighting over food.

Powerful aftershocks continue to hit the region, causing widespread panic.

The BBC's Dan Collyns, in Pisco, says the centre of the town has been largely destroyed - including the colonial San Clemente church, whose congregation was buried when the roof caved in during a funeral service.

The priest, Luis Miroquesada, said he survived by ducking under a table when the earthquake hit.

"It happened just as the mass was ending, at the point when all the participants move to the front to greet the grieving relatives," he told Reuters news agency.

Nobody is going to die of hunger or thirst
Peruvian President Alan Garcia

On Friday, two women were pulled alive from the rubble of the church after 15 hours of digging, but since then rescuers have removed 127 bodies from the ruins.

Thousands of people remain on the town's streets in spite of the cold weather, either because their homes have been destroyed or because they are too scared to return while the aftershocks continue.

Our correspondent says that aid has begun to arrive in the town, but appears not to be reaching those who needed it.

Further south, in Ica, police fired shots into the air to disperse looters.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia warned that looting would not be tolerated.

"Nobody is going to die of hunger or thirst," he insisted.

'Exaggerated desperation'

Aid workers have complained of the difficulties of getting supplies to the hardest-hit villages - some of which are very remote and have not been contacted since the quake struck.

A bereaved family mourns in Pisco graveyard

However, President Garcia predicted "a situation approaching normality" would be restored within 10 days, and said there was no need to "fall into exaggerated desperation".

The president has toured the area, promising food and water to the tens of thousands who lost their homes and loved ones.

Meanwhile, an international humanitarian relief effort has been mobilised.

Countries across Latin America - including Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile - have sent relief supplies.

The US, Canada, Spain, Italy and France have also provided 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.

EARTHQUAKE DISASTER ZONE, AND TECTONIC PLATES
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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The ruins of a church badly damaged in the tremor



SEE ALSO
'Like ghosts in the freezing night'
18 Aug 07 |  Americas
In pictures: Peru quake aftermath
18 Aug 07 |  In Pictures
Engineers work to reconnect Peru
17 Aug 07 |  Technology
Dawn shines light on Pisco's sorrow
17 Aug 07 |  Americas
Peru quake: Eyewitness accounts
16 Aug 07 |  Have Your Say
Country profile: Peru
12 May 07 |  Country profiles
How earthquakes happen
01 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment

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