Algerian rescue teams continue grim task

Search teams and volunteers continued to tear through piles of rubble Thursday, hoping to find survivors of the worst earthquake to hit Algeria for 20 years.

    Total destruction: chances of
    finding many alive are slim

    Rescuers say hundreds are still missing, as people buried under shattered buildings continue to be recovered. But in most cases it is too late.

    "You can smell the victims. Rescue workers are saying "One, here, one here' as the search dogs find the dead," said one volunteer.

    Hospitals in many towns are finding it almost impossible to cope. In some areas, bodies are having to be piled up outside the hospitals and the wounded are treated in the open air.

    "There are so many wounded, we can't count them," one doctor said.

    France has dispatched 120 rescuers with sniffer dogs and equipment to its former colony.

    Germany and Britain have also sent dozens of technicians, dogs and high-tech sound and imaging equipment. Spain said it is sending a field hospital with 10 doctors in addition to search teams.

    Rising toll

    Hundreds of lives lost,
    hundreds more changed for ever

    Some 24 hours after the quake struck, Algerian state radio quoted Interior Minister Nuruddin Yazid Zarhouni as saying the body count now stands at 1,092 and with 6,782 people injured, with more corpses still being pulled out of the rubble.

    In Rouiba, a relatively prosperous city some 30 km from the eastern edge of Algiers, one building after another was reduced to ruins.

    "I have never seen such a disaster in my life. Everything has collapsed," said Yazid Khelfaoui, whose mother was killed.

    Continuing danger

    Some 200 aftershocks hit northern Algeria in the first two hours after the quake and authorities said more are likely to follow.

    Most of Algeria's 32 million people live in the north, away from the Sahara desert. Algiers, on the coast, is home to at least 2.6 million.

    Measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, the tremor was felt as far away as Spain. The US Geological Survey said the quake's epicentre had been 70 km east of the capital, Algiers.

    It also said the quake was the biggest to hit Algeria since 1980, when one measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale demolished more than 70 percent of the city of El Asnam, west of the capital, subsequently rebuilt as Chlef.


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