Peruvian earthquake toll set to soar as survivors tell of tidal wave terror that destroyed p p

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Bodies have begun washing ashore on the beaches of southern Peru, the victims of two huge tidal waves that followed Saturday's earthquake.

Bodies have begun washing ashore on the beaches of southern Peru, the victims of two huge tidal waves that followed Saturday's earthquake.

Rescue teams arriving in coastal towns and villages found traumatised survivors sleeping on the streets. Their homes were obliterated by two tidal waves that swept ashore in the hour after the earthquake – Peru's biggest in decades.

Two tidal waves hit the coast 45 minutes after the earthquake: the first 30 metres high and the second 40 metres, according to the Peruvian navy. The waves were at least 10km long and wiped out hamlets up to 1km inland.

Twenty people were reported drowned, scores missing and 100 injured in the fishing town of Camaná. "We managed to survive the first wave," said one distraught mother. "Then I picked up my daughter in my arms and we started to run and run as fast as we could. But I turned round and saw another wave, even bigger, was coming. It took her. She's dead. I saw her go."

Another man wept when he recalled watching helplessly as three of his family drowned.

Camaná, with 5,000 residents, is now little more than a wasteland, littered with shredded houses and dead cattle. Terrified of another wave caused by aftershocks, thousands of people are sleeping in the streets.

"People have nothing left but the clothes they were wearing. Everything is sodden and there is no food left," said Pedro Maca, director of the Peruvian Red Cross whose team reached the devastated coastal areas on Monday.

Soldiers and rescue workers reached the worst-hit towns of Moquegua and Tacna, but the coastal villages were still struggling yesterday without outside help. Some are totally cut off.

"People have been promised food, tents and clothes but so far nothing has arrived," said Juan-Carlo Fernandez, the priest at the village of San José de Ocoña, which was almost flattened. Ocoña's only ambulance was crushed by a falling building and the village has few medical supplies.

Saturday's earthquake mangled the PanAmerican motorway linking the south to Lima, the capital, leaving lorries and buses stranded at Ocoña.

"People have collected scraps of food and some was salvaged from the stranded lorries. But the extra people camping outdoors is making the situation here worse," Father Fernandez said.

The earthquake itself – which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale – killed at least 102 people and left 12,000 homeless. But the toll looks certain to rise dramatically as rescuers reach more isolated coastal communities.

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