Mobs ransack shops and aid trucks in Peru's quake zone

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The Independent US

Desperate victims of the earthquake on Peru's southern coast looted markets and blocked aid trucks, forcing President Alan Garcia to send 200 navy officials to the area in an attempt to restore order.

In the wake of the disaster that has so far killed 510, television images showed hungry survivors leaving pharmacies and markets with bags full of food and other items. Some people ransacked a public market, while mobs looted a refrigerated trailer.

Few buildings still stood in the fishing city of Pisco in the wake of a quake that struck on Wednesday afternoon. Many of the structures not reduced to rubble were rickety deathtraps waiting to fall. President Garcia predicted that "a situation approaching normality" would return in 10 days, but acknowledged that reconstruction would take far longer.

Workers continued to pull bodies from rubble two days after the earthquake all but levelled this city of 90,000 people. According to Peru's fire department, hopes of finding more survivors diminished. At least 1,500 people suffered injuries, and President Garcia said 80,000 people had lost loved ones, homes or both.

The relief effort is now finally under way. Police identified bodies, and civil defence teams ferried in food. Housing officials assessed the need for new homes, and in several towns long queues formed under intense sun to collect water from soldiers.

In the capital, Lima, Peruvians donated tons of supplies as food, water, tents and blankets began arriving in the quake zone.

Peruvian soldiers also began distributing aluminum caskets, allowing the first funerals. In Pisco's cemetery, lined with collapsed tombs and tumbled crosses, a man painted the names of the dead on headstones – some 200 were lined up.

All day long, people with no way to refrigerate corpses rushed coffins through the cemetery gate, which leaned dangerously until a bulldozer arrived to demolish it.