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Rescue Workers Try to Reach Miners Reported Trapped After Quake

November 14, 1996

NAZCA, Peru (AP) _ Rescue teams searching the rugged southern Peruvian backcountry found two bodies and three survivors in a collapsed gold mine where others are believed still trapped following a strong earthquake.

Army and police patrols found the five people Wednesday in the Huanca mine, 480 miles southeast of Lima, after navigating roads blocked by landslides and washed out by recent flooding.

Immediately after the magnitude-6.4 quake, the government said that up to 60 people may have been buried in at least three mines, including Huanca. But it was unclear today if those numbers were accurate.

``It seems the people are tending to exaggerate things. They believe they will get more attention that way,″ said Otakar Lukac, who is leading firefighting teams in Nazca that are aiding the search.

Officials, meanwhile, lowered the number of dead and injured from Tuesday’s quake, which did the most damage to Nazca, a tourist town of 25,000, and nearby small towns.

Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 560 were injured, civil defense Gen. Julio Alcocer said Wednesday. Earlier government statements had put the figures at 15 dead and 700 hurt.

The area that is the focus of the search has a network of formal and informal mines, many simply holes dug into the sides of mountains by people hoping to strike it rich. Lukac said his crews rescued 10 people from the smaller mines on Wednesday.

``It is not known if there are more dead, but there are people trapped,″ said Alcocer.

Mining Minister Alberto Pandolfi arrived to survey the damage in Nazca, where 95 percent of the homes, most of them adobe or brick structures, were damaged in the quake, said Haide Luz Torres, Nazca’s mayor.

``We are in ruins,″ Luz Torres said.

President Alberto Fujimori, who is on an official state visit to Asia, announced in Tokyo that Japan had promised to fly emergency aid to the affected areas.

Jorge Lopez, head of the social security office in Nazca, said health officials were concerned about the lack of water in Nazca and feared an outbreak of disease. Electricity and telephone service also was out in much of the city.

The quake, which lasted about a minute, was centered in the Pacific Ocean about 80 miles west of Nazca, the Peruvian Geophysical Institute said. The tremors were felt along an 600-mile corridor from Lima, north of Nazca, to Tacna, at Peru’s southern tip.