El Salvador rescuers dig by hand for survivors of second earthquake

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The Independent US

Rescue workers in El Salvador are digging by hand through the wreckage, hunting for survivors of Tuesday's earthquake, which killed at least 237 people and injured 1,695.

Rescue workers in El Salvador are digging by hand through the wreckage, hunting for survivors of Tuesday's earthquake, which killed at least 237 people and injured 1,695.

Three eastern and central provinces, La Paz, San Vicente, and Cusatlan, bore the brunt of the quake, which struck exactly one month after a stronger tremor devastated Central America's most densely populated country.

Five villages on the flanks of the San Vicente volcano vanished beneath tons of soil in the 20-second tremor. Many families slept in the open while the ground beneath them continued to shudder with aftershocks.

Government helicopters moved the injured throughout the night and crews with dogs were due to arrive from Spain yesterday. The first volunteers from neighbouring Guatemala took to the rescue task with a grim sense of déjà vu, braced against aftershocks as they scrabbled through collapsed huts and the rubble of schools and churches.

President Francisco Flores said in a television broadcast late on Tuesday: "The top priority is to save lives. Right now we are focusing on the task of rescue and evacuation." He appealed for specialist aid from international agencies, many of whom had gone to India barely a week after last month's quake, which left more than 800 dead and 100,000 homeless.

Because this tremor struck at 8.22am local time on a school day, many of the victims were children. Five nursery school children and their teacher were crushed to death when a village school in Candelaria collapsed, and 15 more children were buried by falling masonry in a classroom 20 miles from the capital, San Salvador.

Seismologists at the US Geological Survey upgraded the quake to 6.6 on the Richter scale and concluded it was not an aftershock. January's quake, known locally as "Big 13", is now measured at a 7.7 magnitude, 100 times stronger. But with the epicentre of Tuesday's quake 15 miles south-east of the capital and only eight miles beneath the surface, the violent bucking motion panicked Salvadoreans who have endured 3,200 aftershocks over the past month.

Buildings swayed and toppled, and five miles of the newly cleared Pan American highway were impassable. By comparison, a 7.3 magnitude quake off-shore in Sumatra, which happened almost simultaneously, caused little damage.

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