I'm a little surprised there's been no thread on this so far. Three days ago, Peru was struck by a massive earthquake, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale, according to the US Geological Survey. It is the most devastating earthquake to hit Peru since 1970. Several cities were destroyed by the quake and its aftershocks. The quake cracked and cut off roadways and left thousands without power. Parts of coastal Peru are in ruins, without electricity, water or communications. The government has declared a state of emergency. Hospitals and emergency services have been struggling to cope with the large numbers of casualties. With hospitals and mortuaries full, people laid bodies on the city streets.

A domestic and international aid effort is under way to help those affected. The United Nations said it had mobilized almost $1 million dollars in aid from several of its agencies, while the Geneva-based International Federation of the Red Cross said it had sent two planes loaded with relief supplies. Pope Benedict XVI called for Roman Catholic organizations to provide assistance, as groups such as Firefighters without Borders and Oxfam launched their relief efforts. President Bush offered his condolences and $100,000 in emergency aid, with the possibility of more to come, while the Inter-American Development Bank said it was sending $200,000 in immediate humanitarian assistance. Colombia is flying 20 tons of water, medicine, blankets and other aid, as well as supplying 20 rescue workers. Brazil said it would send medicine, food and tents "as soon as possible".

So far the death toll is around 540, as many as 2,000 injured, and tens of thousands of Peruvians are now homeless.

Here are two of the latest updates:

21:20 MECCA TIME, 18:20 GMT

Peru sends soldiers to quake zone

Rescue workers admitted that time was running out in the search for survivors [AFP]

Peruvian soldiers have been deployed to keep order in areas affected by a devastating earthquake, as victims wait for relief supplies to arrive.

Dozens of survivors of Wednesday's magnitude eight tremor looted a convoy of military trucks that were bringing food and clothing to Pisco, the southern coastal city devastated by the country's worst natural disaster in years.

People fought over boxes of milk and cans of tuna on Saturday as the troops tried to restore order. Delays in the distribution of aid meant that tens of thousands of people were becoming desperate for help.

"The supply trucks go by and the anguish of watching them pass without giving us anything forces us to stop them and take what we need," Reyna Macedo, a 60-year-old mother of seven who lost her home, said.

In one street in Pisco, hundreds of people ran towards a truck delivering sacks of food, some climbing up onto its sides. Nervous workers and police on board told the driver to accelerate away before the mob stormed the vehicle.

'Highway robbers'

Mercedes Araoz, the foreign commerce minister, said during a visit to a military air base outside Pisco that robbing and looting continued to be a problem.

"We're trying to do something about the highway robbers ... The army is heading to the area now to control it."

There were also unverified reports of shootings overnight as rival gangs ransacked abandoned homes along the coast.

Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pisco, said the situation remained tense in the city.

"People are afraid of being looted, people around here told us that looters have gone into their houses and stolen everything they had," she said.

"Others said they had to go outside their buildings and shoot into the air to drive away the looters."

Alan Garcia, the Peruvian president, has urged victims to remain calm and patient.

"My obligation is to impose order, and order we will impose today, whatever the cost," he said, after the defense minister announced that about 1,000 soldiers were being sent to the region.

Relief supplies

But at least some relief was beginning to arrive in Pisco.

"There is not enough for everybody, but it is a start," Valentin Fernandez, a co-ordinator at a distribution point in the central square, said as armed soldiers yelled at the crowds to form an orderly queue.

The San Clemente church in Pisco collapsed
as mass was being held [AFP]

He admitted that the rush was "a little chaotic" at first but was soon made orderly.

A US embassy official working with the Peruvian Red Cross said 22 American doctors had set up a field hospital in a stadium in the city, and a plane loaded with humanitarian supplies was scheduled to arrive late on Saturday.

In the nearby town of Chincha, about 2,000 angry survivors gathered in the main square on Saturday, screaming at officials who were unable to tell them when aid would begin to arrive.

Soldiers broke up a mob of men and women armed with broomsticks that tried to break into a warehouse filled with emergency supplies.

Rescue efforts

More than 500 people were killed in the quake and 33,000 families are believed to have lost their homes. Many of the victims perished after their flimsy mud-brick homes caved in.

International rescue teams were continuing to use sound detectors, sniffer dogs and cameras to look for survivors in the mountains of rubble but warned that time was running out.

"We always work on a four-day window and I'm talking realistically. So we are still looking for survivors but there's not much more time," Paul Wooster, co-ordinator of the Rapid UK Rescue team from Gloucester, England, said.

The last survivor was discovered at midday on Friday.

Emergency workers pulled more bodies from the destroyed San Clemente church in Pisco, where hundreds had gathered on Wednesday for mass. The church's domed ceiling broke apart in the tremor that lasted for two minutes.

"According to rescuers and firefighters, there are still dozens of bodies below" Garcia said as he visited the site on Friday.
Peru calls off quake rescue efforts

Troops have been sent to the worst-hit areas to protect
aid supplies and prevent looting [AFP]

Emergency workers in Peru have abandoned the search for survivors of last week's an earthquake which registered 8.0 on the Richter scale.

Hopes of finding more survivors began to fade on Sunday, with aid workers instead focused on recovering the dead and helping secure the distribution of aid.

Jorge Molina, rescue operations chief for area firefighters in Peru, said: "The possibility of finding someone alive is nearly nil."

About 400 firefighters, including groups from Britain, Spain and neighbouring South American nations, have taken part in the search and rescue efforts.

Emergency workers rescued only two survivors but pulled 148 bodies from the ruins of the San Clemente church in Pisco, which collapsed when the tremor hit during a funeral, Molina said.

More than 500 people were killed in several towns in the central coast area, most of them crushed when their flimsy mud-brick homes collapsed.


Hundreds of thousands of people
have been made homeless [AFP]

Carlos Vallejos, Peru's health minister, said about 1,500 doctors and nurses were struggling to prevent the spread of epidemic diseases among earthquake victims.

"The problem is not only that there are still unfound bodies, the problem is water" he said.

Medical officials said Saturday that symptoms of respiratory infections have begun to emerge as a floating dust cloaks the town and warned the situation could deteriorate into an epidemic if residents fail to take precautions.

A field hospital has been set by 22 US doctors in the grounds of the Pisco football stadium.

Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pisco, said aid was reaching some neighbourhoods, but that many survivors were still not receiving any help.

"Here in Pisco there are about a dozen tents that are hosting people who have lost their homes. There is an ambulance and there are soldiers here to protect the humanitarian aid that is arriving," she said.

"But some areas that we have visited before are not seeing any kind of aid. People are saying they have no water or food."


Meanwhile, as reports of looting in the aftermath of the earthquake persisted, Alan Garcia, Peru's president, ordered more soldiers to Pisco and promised that authorities would keep the peace "whatever the cost".

Reports said that more than 1,000 troops and police armed with assault rifles were sent to patrol the streets of Pisco.

Desperate mobs have been looting trucks carrying food and water.

Some people tried to break into the air force base near Pisco where relief efforts have been centralised and close to the provincial capital of Ica, there were reports a mob tried to raid a convoy of trucks carrying emergency supplies.

Spanish firefighters, searching the rubble of a Pisco church, had to stop their work late Saturday when gunfire broke out around them, although it remained unclear where it was coming from.

Garcia has promised to rebuild Pisco, which lost 85 per cent of its houses after what was the most devastating earthquake to hit the country since 1970.