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Hope Fading for Finding Survivors of Algerian Quake

From Associated Press

Rescuers tenderly lifted a wide-eyed toddler from the ruins of her family’s home Friday after hearing her plaintive cries for her mother, two days after a devastating earthquake killed more than 1,600 people.

Two-year-old Emilie Kaidi survived beneath the shattered concrete of her collapsed ground-floor bedroom, sheltered by a door that fell across a television set.

A Spanish volunteer, wedged in a tiny hole in the rubble, handed the black-haired little girl up to other rescuers. She did not have any visible injuries, and later waved as she was taken away in an ambulance.

Emilie’s parents also survived the earthquake that destroyed their hometown, Corso, east of the capital, Algiers. However, her sister, 4-year-old Lisa, died in the ruins of the four-story building where the family lived, another witness said.

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Despite the dramatic rescue, workers said they were losing hope for finding more people alive after the magnitude 6.8 quake.

At a collapsed building in the city of Boumerdas, searchers stopped listening for voices of the living and instead were being guided by the scent of decaying bodies, said Saa Sayah, a captain in Algeria’s civil protection unit.

More than 1,600 people were confirmed dead and 7,207 injured -- but the death toll is expected to rise, with more bodies thought to be buried and with little heavy machinery to clear the devastation.

Villagers suffering from shortages of food, water, electricity, shelter and even blankets accused the government of a poor response to the earthquake.

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Left to their own devices, residents struggled in vain to move huge slabs of concrete with small tools or bare hands.

“We have only our hands and hammers,” Corso resident Ismail Lizir, 42, said. “There has been no sign of local authorities.”

The government tried to help, moving dozens of ambulances, 3,000 police and security agents and electrical workers into the quake zone.

The army sent tents, ambulances and engineering equipment, and water trucks were making the rounds of stricken villages.

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Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia announced that victims would receive monetary aid and housing.

Countries around the world sent assistance. Germany promised a field hospital, Sweden and Switzerland dispatched sniffer dogs, Russia sent rescue experts. Turkey -- a country often hit by quakes -- pitched in with a search team, tents and medicine.

President Bush called Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and assured him of the “support and friendship of the United States,” the official news agency reported.


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