7.9 QUAKE KILLS AT LEAST 47, INJURES HUNDREDS IN PERU
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
AREQUIPA, Peru, June 24, 2001 -- One of the most powerful earthquakes ev= er to hit the Western Hemisphere struck the "white city" of Arequipa, Peru,=
on Saturday afternoon, terrifying residents who felt the entire city shake= and watched a tower on one the nation's oldest cathedrals crumble to the g= round. At least 47 people died and many hundreds more were injured.
"I felt a movement of the earth and I saw the tower of one of thechurche= s fall and a huge cloud of dust arise. I could hardly breathe. The people= began to cry and pray to God that it would stop," said Dr.Eduardo Luna, th= e son of Mireya Shea, wife of this reporter, when reached by phone around 1= a.m. (PST) Sunday morning, or 4 a.m. local time.
"We have felt more than 30 aftershocks since the first quake," Dr.Luna s= aid. The young physician said people were sleeping in the streetsas the tr= emors continued throughout the night.
It is midwinter in Peru, and the city 7,670 feet above sea level. Pre= sident Valentin Paniagua was said to be enroute with 22 tons of food, blank= ets and medicine, and newly-elected President Alejandro Toledo, who takes o= ffice July 28, cancelled a planned trip to the United States to fly to Areq= uipa today.
The earthquake's epicenter was about 16 miles south of the colonial city= of Arequipa, founded in 1540, where hundreds of houses fell and many other= s were damaged. Dr. Luna said his family's home suffered a broken window b= ut little else. "We were lucky that we didn't suffer worse," Dr. Luna said= . He was half a block from Plaza de Armas in thecenter of the city when = the earthquake struck.
Among the most severe casualties of the quake were hundreds ofhomes of t= raditional adobe construction, reports from the region and Dr.Luna said. =
Arequipa, whose population today is near 1 million, was completely destro= yed by an earthquake in 1600, and the 1656 cathedral so badly damaged Satur= day was rebuilt after it was destroyed by a quake in 1868. Major earthqua= kes struck in 1687, 1868, 1958 and 1960, but none were asstrong as Saturday= 's.
Mireya Shea assisted in research for this story.