Quakes Kill 123 in Peru and Romania; Hundreds Left Homeless
Powerful earthquakes jolted widespread regions of the world Tuesday night and Wednesday, killing at least 115 people in Peru and at least eight in Romania, while injuring hundreds, damaging thousands of buildings and leaving hundreds homeless.
The roof of a cathedral collapsed when a 48-second quake of magnitude 5.8 struck Tuesday evening in the Amazon region of northern Peru. Seismic experts said the temblor was centered 75 miles northeast of the city of Moyobamba, about 400 miles northeast of Lima.
A few hours later, southeastern Europe was rattled by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake. It struck Wednesday afternoon, swaying buildings as far apart as Moscow and Istanbul. The epicenter was placed in the Vrancea region near the Soviet-Romanian border.
Gen. Jorge Ferreyros, Peru’s civil defense chief, said Tuesday’s death toll included 27 in Moyobamba, 25 in Rioja, 19 in Nuevo Cajamarca and 12 in Soritor. He said 494 persons were injured, most of them children, and that 40 people were missing. He estimated that 800 people had been left homeless.
Another civil defense official, Ciro Ugarte, said the death toll “could rise considerably” when more reports are received from the Amazon basin on the eastern slope of the Andean range.
The stricken region was hit by more than a score of aftershocks, the largest with a magnitude of 4.8. Shocks were felt as far away as 300 miles from the epicenter, shaking buildings in the coastal cities of Trujillo, Chepen, Pacasmayo, Chiclayo and Piura.
Ferreyros estimated that about 15,000 people across Peru had suffered property losses from the earthquake.
Health Minister Paul Caro said Peruvian air force planes were ferrying food, medicine, tents and clothing to aid the homeless. Doctors ended a one-month strike at the Health Ministry to aid in the relief effort, authorities said.
Wednesday’s earthquake in southeastern Europe sent Romanians fleeing into the streets in panic. The quake and a series of aftershocks sent showers of bricks, cornices and even balconies crashing to the ground.
Hungarian Radio said that hundreds, if not thousands, were injured by falling masonry and roofing tiles shaken from the aging apartment buildings that house most of Bucharest’s 2.3 million residents. Two deaths were reported in the capital and at least six others in cities and villages north of Bucharest.
Bucharest’s streets were jammed with cars shortly after the quake as office workers rushed home to check on their families in the crumbling, prefabricated apartment blocks that ring the city. Telephone and electrical service was cut off to some areas.
The Soviet new agency Tass reported an unspecified number of deaths and injuries in the republic of Moldavia, which borders northeastern Romania along the Prut River. Hungarian television also reported Soviet fatalities, but no details were provided.
In Moscow, deputies of the Supreme Soviet (legislature) observed a minute’s silence after being told there had been fatalities in Moldavia. Later news reports, however, said only that six Soviets were injured in the republic that is home to 4.2 million.
One of history’s deadliest earthquakes struck Soviet Armenia on Dec. 7, 1988, forcing Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev to cut short his visit to the United Staters to return home and oversee disaster relief. More than 25,000 died in the Armenian earthquake.
Gorbachev was again set to begin a U.S. summit meeting when Wednesday’s earthquake struck at 1:40 p.m. in Romania and Moldavia (3:40 a.m. PDT).
“Everything is OK. There was no devastation, no destruction,” Gorbachev told reporters in Ottawa before he left for Washington.
The earthquake sent strong shock waves thousands of miles across Central and Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey.
The Obninsk Seismological Station in the Soviet Union said the quake occurred at a depth of 60 miles, explaining the unusually broad area affected.
U.S. diplomats evacuated the old American Embassy in Moscow to inspect the building for structural damage. A new embassy has been built nearby, but the U.S. government has refused to occupy it, saying the Soviet secret police had laced the structure with listening devices.
The Bulgarian news agency BTA said the quake was felt nationwide but that only minor damage had been reported in Silistra, on the border with Romania. A nuclear plant on the Danube River at Kozlodoui was ordered closed.
Times staff writers Carol Williams, in Budapest, Hungary, and John-Thor Dahlburg, in Moscow, reported on the European earthquake. The reports from Peru were taken from Times wire services.