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El Salvador Honors Quake Victims

November 3, 2001

SANTA TECLA, El Salvador (AP) _ Hundreds of mourners sang hymns, said prayers and fought back tears Friday, as authorities unveiled a large iron cross to honor more than 1,200 Salvadorians killed in a pair of huge earthquakes in January and February.

The cross, more than six-foot high, was put up in a municipal ceremony in this city on the eastern outskirts of the capital, San Salvador.

The cross stands above a common grave where officials buried 200 quake victims whose families couldn’t afford a private burial or whose bodies could not be identified.

``The cross is in honor of the victims,″ said Santa Tecla Mayor Oscar Ortiz. ``Now and forever their families will have a place to leave them flowers and to pray for them.″

The magnitude 7.6 and 6.6 quakes struck Jan. 13 and Feb. 13, rocking El Salvador and most of the rest of Central America. More than 1,200 people died, 8,000 were injured and more than a million residents were left homeless.

But no area was hit harder than Santa Tecla, where nearly all of a wealthy hillside neighborhood was buried by a massive mud slide.

After more than nine months, authorities say the bodies of dozens of people killed in the Jan. 13 quake may never be recovered.

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