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Peruvian Earthquake Kills 15, Traps Miners in Andes Mountains

November 13, 1996

NAZCA, Peru (AP) _ An army convoy and foot patrol tried today to reach a gold mine high in the Andes Mountains where at least 40 miners were reported trapped by a powerful earthquake.

Fifteen people were killed and as many as 700 injured by the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck southeastern Peru at midday Tuesday. The quake destroyed buildings in Nazca, a tourist town of 25,000 people about 235 miles southeast of Lima, and tiny towns nearby.

Army Gen. Ronald Rueda Benavidas said Tuesday night that 40 to 60 gold miners were trapped in a caved-in shaft at the Huanca mine, 480 miles southeast of Lima. The report came from a radioed call for assistance from a nurse at the mine’s health post, which was destroyed by the quake.

An army convoy set out to try to assist the miners, but had not reached the remote site by dawn because the access road was blocked by cracks and landslides.

A military foot patrol had also not reached the area, military authorities said.

Radioprogramas, Peru’s leading radio station, reported from Nazca that the mine’s 3,000 residents had radioed a request today for medicine to treat the injured. It gave no other details, and did not say if any miners had been reached by rescuers.

Four people were killed and 380 injured in Nazca, a town popular with tourists who come to view unusual drawings of birds and other wildlife etched into the nearby desert.

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.

Streets in Nazca were blocked with piles of bricks and adobe from collapsed building. Half the homes in two of the city’s neighborhoods _ many of them simple adobe structures _ were damaged, officials said.

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.

Terrified Nazca residents spent the night in the street, huddling 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 in Chincha, farther to the north.

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

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