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Bolivia Earthquake Kills 84

May 24, 1998

AIQUILE, Bolivia (AP) _ While rescuers searched for more bodies, the leaders of Bolivia and Peru attended a Mass Sunday for the victims of a devastating earthquake that killed at least 84 people in central Bolivia.

President Hugo Banzer, accompanied by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, led the Mass in the village of Aiquile, the town closest to the epicenter of Friday’s quake.

``Families will have to live in tents for one, two, maybe six months,″ Banzer said in remarks after the Mass. ``But I promise to you that you will receive permanent aid from us. I promise that no one will be abandoned.

``I beg for your patience.″

The death toll was expected to rise as rescuers sifted through the rubble of Friday’s earthquake, which leveled many homes and buildings in this mountain village and surrounding areas. Experts with trained dogs from Chile joined the search on Sunday.

About 200 people were injured in the earthquake.

Aftershocks have continued to rattle the area, 320 miles southeast of La Paz.

Officials urged people not to return to damaged houses. But thousands of people _ fearing another tremor strong enough to topple buildings _ already have been sleeping in the open streets, plazas or soccer fields.

The latest tremor, with a preliminary magnitude of 4, hit Sunday morning, but caused no damage or casualties.

Angel Vega, a seismologist with the San Calixto Observatory, said 582 tremors had been registered by midmorning Sunday.

``Several patients simply refused to remain inside the hospital after the strong tremor yesterday,″ said hospital director Sor Mariola Furgola, referring to a Saturday aftershock with a magnitude of 4.5. ``We are attending several of them in the garden.″

Meanwhile, officials toured the devastated village, marking with white crosses a number of houses that will be demolished starting Monday.

A preliminary report by Defense Minister Fernando Kiefer indicated 880 houses in Aiquile were destroyed and 330 were damaged by the magnitude-5.9 quake at dawn Friday. Another 220 are considered safe.

Most of the earthquake victims were buried Saturday at the village’s small cemetery. Additional coffins had to be flown from nearby Cochabamba.

Thousands of people have been left homeless, and many have lost most of their belongings.

Sergio Saavedra, an aid official in Aiquile, said Sunday that trucks with water were arriving in Aiquile but the situation remained critical in other villages.

He said six giant water tanks were expected here Sunday from the United States and would be sent to the rural areas.

Two airplanes from Mexico unloaded more than 20 tons of tents, blankets, medical and other supplies.

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