Seventy-five hours after an earthquake leveled the Ruben Dario office building here--a day after many had abandoned hope--rescue workers Monday pulled a 22-year-old secretary alive from the wreckage and discovered another live victim trapped nearby.
The rescue was part of a continuing drama in the aftermath of an earthquake that President Jose Napoleon Duarte said killed 890 people and left many thousand homeless.
It had been more than a day since anyone was pulled alive from collapsed downtown buildings. Early in the morning, search dogs and sound sensors had failed to detect signs of life below.
But as corpses and and slabs of cement were picked away, the dogs suddenly sensed movement and barked excitedly.
French, Swiss Crews
Four hours later, as desperate families looked on, French and Swiss rescue crews lifted a stretcher from a hole carved three stories down.
Elsa Flores, 48, waited with swollen eyes and her hand over her heart, hoping it would be her daughter. Joaquin Pineda stood shaking and wondering if its was his girlfriend.
The victim, conscious and grasping a doctor's hand, was Marisol Flores Orellana.
"It's her," cried Pineda when he caught a glimpse of her face. "There were times when I felt as if I would never see her again, not even dead."
Rescue workers were jubilant. "It's extraordinary, absolutely exceptional," said Jean Luc Nicollier, one of 53 Swiss rescue workers.
Salvadoran Red Cross officials put the figure of deaths from Friday's quake at 600, corresponding to the number of bodies they have accounted for. They said that figure is expected to rise as rescue work continues in the debris of collapsed buildings. The temblor measured 5.4 on the Richter scale.
Two Americans Dead
At least two Americans were among the dead, and workers held faint hope of rescuing a third believed to be buried in the old Gran Hotel El Salvador, a commercial building.
Mexican miners tunneling into the building said they did not believe that the owner, American Harry Jacobson, was alive.
"They're pure corpses now," said Vicente Otero.
In Mexico City's earthquake last year, rescue teams continued to pull babies out of a collapsed hospital for nine days after the jolt, but San Salvador's climate is considerably warmer and more difficult to survive without water.
Rescue workers said afternoon rains make caves and crevices under the rubble more humid and, therefore, hotter still.
"The first few days were very successful," said Jeff Mitchell, a disaster expert from the University of Maryland working with American crews. "Today it is grim."
An American team from Miami continued to walk dogs through holes and tunnels in search of Jacobson, 71, but after one half-hour search, Mitchell emerged making a thumbs down sign.
At the Ruben Dario building, Swiss, French, Japanese and Guatemalan rescue teams worked into the night to try to free an unconscious man in his late-20s.
They used electric saws and jackhammers to loosen the rubble; baskets and metal trays to scoop out the cement chips. Workmen tossed boulders, metal T-bars, pieces of aluminum and wooden beams out of the hole where the man was trapped in a bed beneath four floors of concrete. One leg was caught and crushed.
Workers sprayed green disinfectant in the area where decaying bodies lay and stopped briefly when a strong aftershock jarred the ruins.
"The leg is flattened. They are trying to decide whether to amputate it there or to dig him out first, but that could take 24 hours," said Nicollier.
At government buildings throughout downtown, employees showed up to work but spent the morning standing outside while inspectors examined the damage.
Food, Water Shortage
Meanwhile, in hard-hit residential areas around the capital families complained that they were not getting food, water or aid from the government.
Crowds streamed into Red Cross headquarters in search of food, but relief workers trying to control distribution sent them back to their neighborhoods to await deliveries.
Red Cross spokesman Ernesto Ferreiro said that about 45,000 people need food and shelter and many more are living in the street because they fear returning to their houses. President Duarte estimated as many as 150,000 may be homeless.
Ferreiro said that many poor people who may have been unaffected by the earthquake also are seeking some of the aid pouring in from the United States, Europe and Latin America.
"There are a lot of poor people here who logically are trying to get something for themselves," Ferreiro said.
He said the Red Cross has encountered a few cases of false Red Cross flags which people used to try to get quantities of food that they said they wished "to distribute."
He also said that some people were trying to sell donated plastic tarpaulins and that in better-off neighborhoods, a few people had taken the tarps, meant as temporary shelters, to use as automobile covers.
At several of the over-crowded or damaged hospitals, doctors worked on patients outside or in circus tents set up in parking lots. Volunteers made bandages and washed dishes as traffic roared by on the steets.