July 12, 1997 in Nation/World

Search On For Quake Survivors In Venezuela

Associated Press

Rescuers with listening probes burrowed into the debris of a demolished office building Friday, trying to pick up moans, breathing or any sign of life from survivors of an earthquake that killed at least 67 people.

No such sounds were heard, but the search continued a third straight night.

Shortly before midnight, a crane lifted off the roof of the crumbled seven-story building so rescue teams could gain access to rubble below.

Dante Peralta, 35, one of about 1,000 people gathered nearby, awaited word on the fate of his missing wife and two young daughters. “There’s still some hope they may be alive,” he said.

Wednesday’s 6.9-magnitude quake, Venezuela’s most devastating in three decades, left at least 469 people injured.

Rescue officials offered no evidence that there are more survivors, yet - while doubtful themselves - they refused to rule that completely out. They said the seven-story building collapsed at a slant, possibly leaving air pockets.

Nevertheless, firefighter coordinator Jose Antonio Pazo said the focus of the rescue after two days is shifting. “We’re going to take them out, body by body, and deliver them in the best condition to their families.”

The death toll increased to 67 Friday after two bodies were pulled from the ruins of the office and apartment building. But several others were still under the rubble.

On Thursday, rescuers occasionally heard knocking and faint calls for help. By late that night, the steel and concrete rubble had gone silent.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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