January 14, 2001

Central American quake leaves more than 100 dead, up to 1,200 missing

                  GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNN) -- More than 100 people were dead and
                  as many as 1,200 were missing in a landslide created by a major earthquake in
                  Central America, an International Red Cross official said Sunday.

                  Israel Zuniga, the Red Cross regional director in Guatemala City, said there were 108 fatalities
                  confirmed in El Salvador and four confirmed dead in Guatemala. Authorities say they expect the
                  death toll to rise significantly.

                  Seismologists pinpointed the magnitude 7.6 earthquake's epicenter about 110 kilometers (65
                  miles) south-southwest of San Miguel, El Salvador. It hit the region about 11:30 a.m.

                  Neighborhood virtually buried

                  The small neighborhood of San Tecla outside El Salvador was virtually buried during the quake.
                  Nearly a day after the disaster hit, rescuers, many of them family members, worked to find anyone
                  who might have been buried alive.

                  "It happened so fast," said an unidentified rescuer. "We're bringing up people here. They're bringing
                  up a friend from the house. She's alive, thank God."

                  El Salvador President Francisco Flores has declared a national emergency. "The priority is in
                  the southern part of San Tecla and the area of Berlin which has been greatly affected," Flores
                  said. "We have heard there could be people still buried in this area due to the collapse of the

                  Some areas cut off

                  Zuniga said rescue workers had been unable to reach all of the areas affected by the quake
                  because several highways were blocked because of the landslide.

                  He said the Guatemalan emergency management agency sent a helicopter early Sunday over the
                  southwestern part of Guatemala and part of El Salvador to assess the damage.

                  The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador, was making helicopters available to help with
                  flyovers, he said.

                  International aid

                  Zuniga said a three-person team based in El Salvador was coordinating relief efforts. In
                  addition, relief officials have a warehouse stocked with up to 10,000 items for families, including
                  plastic sheeting, water containers and blankets.

                  Switzerland has sent an initial contribution of emergency aid worth $100,000 to the disaster
                  victims, the Swiss Development Aid agency said on Sunday. The Swiss Red Cross said it would
                  provide an initial 100,000 Swiss francs ($61,650) for emergency aid to help its sister organization in
                  El Salvador, and the Caritas Schweiz aid group also pledged 100,000 francs.

                  Several other countries, including the United States, Spain and Taiwan, have already
                  announced they are sending aid to the region.

                         Reuters contributed to this report.