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Rescue efforts continue in quake hit Peru

LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- Rescuers in Peru continue their search for survivors of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake which left at least 71 people dead and more than 1,000 injured and was felt in neighbouring Bolivia and Chile.

President Valentin Paniagua, checking out the damage from the air, saw the devastation that left thousands camped out in public parks and stadiums in cold winter weather.

Officials and media reports said that fatalities and damage occurred, to a large extent, in the towns of Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna. Arequipa Mayor Manuel Guillin said that 70 percent of the homes in his town were damaged.

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Relief officials made arrangements to get survivors blankets, food, shelter, medicine and clean water, and they were coordinating air and ground transportation to deliver supplies. Two cargo planes stocked with 22 tons of food, blankets and medicine were headed to the region Sunday.

"The most important thing is to support work on search and rescue to get those people who are injured then immediately to look after the people who are homeless," said Ian Logan of the International Red Cross.

The magnitude 7.9 quake struck Saturday afternoon. It was centered in the Pacific Ocean about 190 kilometers (120 miles) west of the coastal city of Arequipa, said geophysicist Brian Lassige at the U.S. National Earthquake Center in Golden, Colorado. The earthquake could be felt as far away as Chile and Bolivia. Officials said some 70 aftershocks had been felt, some up to magnitude 6.2.

The tower of an ancient church in the center of Arequipa crumbled in the temblor, and officials said thousands of people fled their homes in panic when they felt the rumbling, which lasted for more than one minute.

"It's the historic part of town where the majority of damage can be seen. The cathedral, unfortunately, is the most affected and the most visible," Guillin said. "I am also of the understanding, after the inspections we have done, that there are also some colonial buildings and homes in the historic district that sustained major damage."

The cathedral was first constructed in 1656, but rebuilt after an earthquake in 1868.

Rescue crews were being hampered in searching the rubble for survivors because night has fallen and most of the power is out in the city.

Officials feared Moquegua was even harder hit than Arequipa, but because of downed telephone lines, information was slow to come from the area.

• National Weather Service, Pacific Tsunami Warning Center
• USGS National Earthquake Information Center

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