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2001: Earthquake devastates Salvador

VIDEO : Killer earthquake hits El Salvador

More than 1,000 people are feared to have died after an earthquake struck the Central American city of San Salvador.

250 bodies have so far been recovered by rescuers.

The quake was felt as 40 seconds of violent movement, followed by a string of powerful aftershocks.

Most deaths occurred in the suburb of Las Colinas, east of San Salvador, where the impact sent thousands of tons of mud crashing down the hillside into the newly-built neighbourhood below.

Many ended up being buried alive and the numbers of deaths was increased by the timing of the quake - a Saturday afternoon, when many people were in their homes.

Bulldozers began the epic task of attempting to clear the rubble but rescuers were overwhelmed by the size of the devastation.

Some were reduced to digging for bodies with their hands.


"I heard a big roar, and I saw the mountain come tumbling down over the houses"

Reynaldo Maradiaga, survivor

The rescue effort continued into the night.

American priest Peter Danaher survived the quake.

He said: "Never having experienced an earthquake before. It was a strange feeling to see the earth not moving, but yet throwing us from side to side and almost falling down."

Another man, Reynaldo Maradiaga, described how he started to run when the earthquake began rocking his home.

"I heard a big roar, and I saw the mountain come tumbling down over the houses," he said.

Thousands in El Salvador are now homeless without shelter.

Impromptu services for the dead have already started.

In Context
Almost 24 hours after the quake, aftershocks were continuing to be felt across the country, sending people back out onto the streets in panic.

Following Salvadoran President Francisco Flores' appeal for international assistance the UK Government pledged more than 600,000 to provide medicine, sanitation and clean water supplies to the ravaged central American region.

The earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale - one of the most powerful to strike Central America in 20 years - also left dead and injured in neighbouring Guatemala.

Exactly a month later more than 120 people were reported killed and 800 injured after another major earthquake in El Salvador.

The 20-second quake measured 6.1 on the Richter scale.


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