Search for Peru Quake Survivors Ends; Relief Efforts Ongoing

The search for survivors of last week's powerful magnitude-8 earthquake in Peru officially ended Monday, and efforts shifted to clearing the tons of rubble from the streets of the southern port city of Pisco.

Disease control is also a priority now for Peruvian Government, with fumigation operations now under away across many of the devastated towns.

Meanwhile aid groups continue in their struggle to bring relief in the chaotic aftermath of last Wednesday's temblor, which killed at least 540 people and left an estimated 176,000 homeless.

"The poor have been the most affected and, when we visited, aid had not got to them, so they were desperate for water, food and most also for shelter," said Margaret Swires, director of the Peruvian Baptist Convention's social action and family department.

Swires, who also works for the U.K.-based Christian mission organization BMS World Mission, recently joined Baptist colleagues in Peru as they scrambled to get food, water, medicines, blankets and tarpaulin to survivors in the badly-hit Ica region, many of whom have lost their homes and almost all their life possessions.

"We saw endless coffins heading for the cemeteries; many the white coffins of children," she reported after surveying the scene of devastation in Ica, south of the capital.

Many of those unable to leave the quake-hit region have opted to sleep out in the open for fear of another earthquake or further tremors.

Road links have also been badly affected, with the main road in the country impassable and bridges also put out.

"It took us five hours to travel a half-an-hour journey. There is no other route, so traffic is always heavy and now with people on the move, for varying reasons, it's chaos," said Swires.

She appealed to Christians to pray for the Baptist response team, which has been in Ica since Friday, and for the earthquake survivors.

"Please pray for a very frightened and scared people, that they will know the God who preserved their lives in this time," the mission worker urged.

In a preliminary report, Peru's Civil Defense said the quake destroyed 35,214 homes — including 16,000 in Pisco and 16,010 in nearby Chincha. It reported another 4,053 houseswere badly damaged.