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Quakes still rattle El Salvador

BY P.J. HELLER | SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador | May 11, 2001

The latest quakes, ranging from magnitude 2 to 5.3 on the Richter scale, began Tuesday and continued through Wednesday

morning. They were felt in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

One person was killed in the town of Conchagua when an abode wall of his home fell on him. Reports said the man was in the

process of repairing his home following the 6.6 magnitude quake on Feb. 13 and the 7.6 magnitude temblor on Jan. 13. Those

quakes killed more that 1,246 people, injured 8,000 and left thousands homeless.

"The city is in collective hysterics," one resident reported after the February quake.

If anything, the situation has gotten worse as the ground continues to shift. There have been thousands of quakes since the deadly

January and February temblors. There can be hundreds of quakes in a single day.

Scientists, however, say the number of quakes is not all that unusual.

Even so, the shaking has caused widespread alarm among residents. The country's minister of public health reported that at least

8,000 people have sought medical help for emotional stress brought on by the quakes.

Salvadoran officials have said it will take about $3 billion to rebuild roads, schools and homes left in shambles by the quakes.

"This is the greatest tragedy El Salvador has faced in its history," Salvadoran President Francisco Flores said in a March speech in

Washington.

U.S. officials promised in March to step up aid to the country after criticism that they were responding too slowly and with too few

resources. U.S. officials said they have provided $10 million in assistance, including temporary housing and medical assistance.

Faith-based organizations have been helping in the relief efforts since the first quake in January. Separate teams were dispatched by

the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod, Emmanuel Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church of El Salvador, the Reformed Church, and the

Salvadoran office of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The groups have coordinated their relief work through ACT El

Salvador, the local network of Action by Churches Together (ACT), a global alliance of church-based relief agencies.

Other faith-based groups which have also joined in relief efforts include the Canadian Lutheran Church, Norwegian Church Aid

(Guatemala), the Bavarian Lutheran Church, Lutheran WorldÊ Federation/Department for World Service (Guatemala and

Honduras), Danchurchaid, Diakonishes Werk, Church World Service (CWS) and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

The latest series of quakes were centered in San Vicente, one of the areas hardest hit in the February quake. Officials said 44 homes

were destroyed and another 70 were damaged.

In the town of Apastepeque, about 100 miles from the capital San Salvador, 40 homes being repaired from the previous quakes

collapsed.

Landslides were also reported in Usulutan, San Miguel, San Vicente and Cuscatlan.

The series of temblors has left residents shaken and scared. Some have said they believe the world is ending.

"People are scared because the earth shakes and it doesn't stop," said Scott Baxter, a geologist working for the Salvadoran

government. "And then people start shaking, too.

"One thing is for sure," he added. "The San Salvador area will keep on shaking."


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