Earthquake In Japan: Survivors attack `slow aid response'

Kobe - Survivors have accused the Japanese government of dragging its feet in providing aid as the official death toll rose to 4,047, with 21,671 people injured and 727 missing.

Kobe continued to burn yesterday and up to 50 new blazes broke out in damaged buildings, sparked by power surges or rescuers' digging. Most of the city was still without power, water or gas. Many people fled in cars, clogging roads connecting Kobe with nearby Osaka, while about 270,000 spent last night in gymnasiums and schools. Officials said it would take up to month to restore water services to much of the city.

In Tokyo, the government appeared stung by a senior official's admission that the recovery operation was too slow.

"We should have asked the Self-Defence Forces [army] for help much earlier," the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Nobuo Ishihara said. "The government was late in assessing damage and late in adopting measures."

City officials repeated warnings of the danger from aftershocks, fires and poor sanitary conditions. Many buildings are barely standing or leaning on other structures. A big aftershock could topple them.

Two 80-year-old women were pulled alive from rubble in Nishinomiya, east of Kobe. One was barely scratched; even her glasses were intact. But almost all of the 200 missing people unearthed yesterday were dead, and hope was receding for those still buried.

n Bogota - An earthquake estimated at between 6.5 and 6.9 on the Richter scale rocked Colombia yesterday, killing at least one person and damaging buildings in several cities, AP reports.