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New Peru quakes don't deter aid

BY HENRY BRIER | BALTIMORE | August 15, 2001

Despite nearly daily small earthquakes rattling Peru, disaster response organizations are continuing to provide relief in the wake of a major quake that hit that country in June.

The June 23 earthquake in southern Peru killed more than 100 people. The epicenter of that quake, which also shook neighboring Chile and Bolivia as it measured 8.1 on the Richter Scale, was in the Pacific Ocean, 120 miles off the southwestern coast of Peru, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Damage inflicted on Peru also derives from several aftershocks immediately after the quake as well as a tsunami tidal wave, whose saltwaters reached half-a-mile into agricultural fields of Arequipa, a southern coastal city.

Donna Derr, associate director of Church World Service (CWS) international emergency response, said CWS has sent humanitarian supplies to survivors include blankets, bedding, plastic sheets and provisions for labor assistance and home repairs. In addition, local partner organizations have received funding.

According to the National Seismic Center of Peru, several strong aftershocks continued until July 10, amounting to about 180 total. Within 30 days after the quake, the total number of tremors exceeded 4,500. The most recent aftershocks occurred on Monday and Tuesday this week.

Several churches were damaged badly, according to Baptist World Aid.

"There is an emergency committee to assist the churches," an official said, adding the organization has sent funding in the form of a $5,000 grant. "The first Baptist church was seriously damaged."

Also in need of repair are damaged homes, which total almost 36,000, according to Lutheran World Relief (LWR). Almost 18,000 homes were destroyed beyond repair by the quake. And the saltwater from the tsunami covered more than 6,500 acres of agricultural land.

Further complicating the rebuilding process is the fact that the majority of the homes in the affected areas were constructed of adobe, a natural sun-dried clay.

Many southern Peruvians live in rural regions inaccessible by modern modes of transportation, adding another complicating factor to the relief effort.

The amount of produce Arequipa crops yield is expected to decline greatly for the next three years as a result of the far-reaching tidal wave that left seawater on the formerly fertile fields, according to the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC).

CRWRC has earmarked $10,000 for relief, which is to be divided by three Peruvian organizations that will provide guidance for the southern coastal region.

The epicenter of the recent earthquake is southeast of a similarly destructive earthquake to afflict Peru in 1996, according to the Peruvian Embassy. That quake registered at 7.7 on the Richter Scale. An 1868 quake with its epicenter in this region registered at 9.0.

According to the National Seismic Center of Peru, the space-time analysis of tremor origins and the frequency of their occurrences indicates a 100-by-160 mile region active with seismic energy that is expected to accumulate energy and ultimately prompt another earthquake.

Like the June quake, the 1868 quake helped produce a massive tsunami that killed hundreds of people in South America.

Peru's Ministry of Health has undertaken efforts to work against various health threats, such as respiratory infections, diarrhea and dehydration, according to a spokesperson for LWR.

Preventive efforts also are underway, including water purification and proper food handling although there has been an increase in reported gastrointestinal, diarrhea and contagious respiratory ailments, the spokesperson added.

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