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.
Nearly 2 1/2 hours later, French and Swiss crews pulled a barely conscious 33-year-old man out of the same tunnel used to rescue the woman.
The rescues were part of a continuing drama in the aftermath of an earthquake that President Jose Napoleon Duarte said Monday night killed 976 people and left many thousands homeless.
Sensors Fail to Detect Signs
It had been more than a day since anyone was pulled alive from any of the collapsed downtown buildings. Early in the morning, search dogs and sound sensors had failed to detect signs of life in the wreckage of the Ruben Dario structure.
Dogs Begin Barking
But as corpses and slabs of concrete were picked away, the dogs suddenly sensed movement and barked excitedly.
Four hours later, as desperate families watched, French and Swiss rescue crews lifted a stretcher from a tunnel 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 it was his girlfriend.
The victim, alert 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 on Friday measured 5.4 on the Richter scale.
Two Americans Among 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 rescue workers tunneling into the building said they did not believe that the owner, American Harry Jacobson, was alive.
An American team from Miami continued to walk dogs through holes and tunnels in search of Jacobson, 71, but after half an hour's search, Mitchell emerged making a thumbs down sign.
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 in without water.
Rescue workers said that 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."
Electric Saws, Jackhammers
At the Ruben Dario building, Swiss, French, Japanese and Guatemalan rescue teams worked with electric saws and jackhammers to loosen the rubble around a man they found unconscious.
Doctors began to treat him beneath the debris while workers used baskets and metal trays to scoop out concrete chips. They 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.
Workers sprayed green disinfectant in the area where decaying bodies lay and stopped briefly when a strong aftershock jarred the ruins.
"(His) leg is flattened. They are trying to decide whether to amputate it there or to dig him out first," Nicollier said.
At last, they freed Vidal Ventura and rushed him to the hospital. Ventura and Flores, the woman freed before him, each had to have a crushed leg amputated.
At mid-afternoon Monday, a strong aftershock rattled the capital for about three seconds. There were no immediate reports of additional casualties or damage.
The seismological station in neighboring Guatemala said that the tremor measured 4.5 on the Richter scale. It said that it was centered 156 miles southeast of Guatemala City in the Pacific Ocean off the Salvadoran coast.
Duarte paid a visit to the site of the Ruben Dario office building and tried to comfort a crying 16-year-old girl, Marilyn Elizabeth Lemus Alvarenga, who rushed up to the president and embraced him. Her sister is among more than 200 people who officials believe are still missing in the rubble of the structure.
Duarte said later on nationwide television that 8,176 people had been injured in the quake.
Duarte postponed indefinitely a visit to the United States he had planned for this week. He was scheduled to speak at Boston University on Friday and then go to Washington. The State Department relayed the message of the cancellation from Duarte to the university.
The devastation was confined mostly to this city of 800,000 people, and Duarte told Salvadorans in a broadcast Sunday night, "We are practically going to have to reconstruct all of the city."
Duarte said that the city suffered $2 billion in damage and that every government building in this Central American capital was hit, including the presidential palace.
Government operations were moved to the military command headquarters.
Duarte said 20 mercy flights from abroad had brought food, medicines, clothing and temporary shelters. But he cited a shortage of temporary shelter and medicines such as tetanus vaccine, anesthetics, antibiotics and analgesics.
Meanwhile, at government buildings throughout downtown, employees showed up for work Monday but spent the morning standing outside while inspectors examined the damage.
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.
For the second night in a row, a hard rain fell on the homeless, who are living beneath makeshift roofs, plastic sheets and blankets.
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.
Duarte estimated that as many as 31,000 people 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 wanted "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 overcrowded or damaged hospitals, doctors worked on patients outside or in tents set up in parking lots. Volunteers made bandages and washed dishes as traffic roared by on the highway.
Electricity and telephone service were sporadic.