Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Sunday, 19 August 2007 12:02 UK

'Bodies still lie in Pisco's plaza'

Aerial view of Senor de Luren church in Ica, Peru, with its roof partially collapsed
Senor de Luren church, like much of Ica, has survived the quake

As rescue efforts gather pace after the devastating quake which shook Peru on 16 August, BBC correspondent Dan Collyns reports from two of the affected towns, Ica and Pisco.

I have just arrived in Ica, the provincial capital of the province of Ica, which has been at the epicentre of this devastating earthquake.

Ica itself, although a larger city than Pisco, has been less affected.

We travelled along a well-preserved road - it was not too badly damaged.

It was in stark contrast to the scenes that I had seen in Pisco, where the roads were rutted, torn up and at least 80% of the town was destroyed.

I think the single most impressive sight which I witnessed was the clearing up of the rubble from the collapsed San Clemente church.

Shortage of coffins

This has been the focal point of the grieving in Pisco, as around 200 people are thought to have been inside as the church collapsed during evening mass when the earthquake struck.

Residents in Pisco carry the coffin of a victim
In Pisco relatives have the grim task of burying the victims

To remember the dead, an open-air mass was held outside in the plaza in front of the church.

Meanwhile, huge bulldozers were scooping up tons of rubble, probably with bodies still amid the rocks and construction materials.

It was a poignant scene because many people have loved ones whose bodies have not yet been discovered. There are also still bodies lying in the Plaza de Armas.

Until recently there was a shortage of coffins - I think that has now been dealt with because coffins have been sent in from Lima.

The site of the church is particularly impressive as only the facade remains, the entire body is just a pile of rubble.

Rescue efforts

The scale of the rescue efforts now are quite impressive. Aid agencies have really taken hold of the main square in Pisco.

Survivors of the quake in Pisco receiving aid
Aid is vital for many survivors who have to fend for themselves

Makeshift hospitals have been set up as well. Of course there are TV crews too.

So you have a very busy situation. It looks like a lot is happening.

Aid is arriving, it is being distributed. But if you go to the outlying areas of Pisco you cannot really sense the presence of the government relief or indeed the international aid.

In those areas people really are fending for themselves. They are getting food from relatives out of town or friends who have not been so badly affected.

They have essentially pulled out all their belongings, their furniture, onto the street and set up almost a living room on the street.

Many of them are bedded down, some of them around camp fires, some of them huddled in blankets.

My overall impression of what I've seen is that this is really going to take a long-term effort to recover.

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