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Peruvian Earthquake Kills 15, Traps Miners in Andes Mountains

November 13, 1996

NAZCA, Peru (AP) _ At least 40 gold miners were trapped in an underground mine high in the Andes Mountains after a powerful earthquake struck Peru’s southern coast, killing 15 people and injuring as many as 700.

The 6.4-magnitude quake struck at midday Tuesday, damaging homes and buildings in Nazca, a tourist town of 25,000 located 235 miles southeast of Lima. Four people were killed and 380 injured in Nazca.

Nazca Hospital director Dr. Fermin Caceres said most of the injured were children and elderly people hurt when walls and roofs collapsed on them. At least two schools were among the damaged buildings.

Jose Amado, 72, broke his leg when the walls in his house crumbled on top of him and his two teen-age daughters.

``I was covered up to my waist in adobe,″ Amado said.

Forty to 60 gold miners were trapped in a caved-in shaft at the Huanca mine, 480 miles southeast of Lima, said Army Gen. Ronald Rueda Benavidas.

A military patrol was sent on foot to the mine, Rueda said. He had no information on the condition of the miners, since the mine was virtually cut off from outside communication.

In Nazca, which was hardest hit by the quake, streets were blocked with piles of bricks and adobe from collapsed buildings. In two of the city’s neighborhoods, half of the homes _ many of them simple structures of adobe _ were damaged, officials said.

Terrified residents spent the night in the street. Many huddled under blankets in front of their ruined homes. Even those whose houses remained intact were afraid to stay inside because of frequent tremors following the main quake.

Doris Flores and five members of her family sat on chairs dragged from their simple adobe home, the front wall of which had collapsed into rubble at their feet.

``We had hardly gotten out when the doorway collapsed,″ Flores said. ``As we were running, the walls from other houses were falling down around us.″

The quake was centered in the Pacific Ocean about 83 miles west of Nazca, the Peruvian Geophysical Institute said.

The quake lasted about a minute and was felt in Lima _ where high-tension cables fell across a busy avenue _ and as far away as Tacna, 600 miles southeast of the capital.

Five people were killed in the mining town of Acari, southeast of Nazca, and four people died and 200 were injured in the small town of Palpa, northwest of Nazca, civil defense spokeswoman Lena Montes said. Two others died and 120 were hurt in Chincha, farther to the north.

Officials said the Pan-American highway, Peru’s main north-south highway was closed south of Nazca because of damage to two metal bridges.

Update hourly