Algerian Quake Kills at Least 2200

7690 injured

Wed May 21, 2003 07:28 PM ET
By Paul de Bendern

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria's strongest earthquake for years struck the capital and nearby towns Wednesday, killing at least 250 people and injuring nearly 1,700, state television said.

Measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, it sent panicked families running into the streets in Algiers and nearby cities along the Mediterranean coast when it hit at 7:44 p.m. (2:44 a.m. EDT).

Worst affected were cities east of the capital including Rouiba and Boumerdes -- where media reports spoke of people jumping from windows as they tried to save themselves.

Algerian television said in a live report from Boumerdes that many people were on the streets "in a high state of panic."

"There are many people under the rubble," the reporter said.

The television also said a small hospital had collapsed in Boumerdes, but gave few details.

"Parts of buildings have collapsed. There's rubble everywhere. Tens of youths are digging through the rubble with their bare hands to get people out of the buildings," said Reuters reporter Hamid Ould Ahmed from a poor part of the city center.

Algerian television showed gaping holes in walls, mounds of rubble and wounded people in a hospital, including one child bandaged around the head and with blood on his face.

"Families ran out in panic into the streets but we couldn't see any damage. It lasted for several seconds," a Reuters correspondent said by telephone from a tall hotel in central Algiers which had shuddered markedly.


The earth also shook across the whole of central northern Algeria, where most of the country's 32 million people live, and, according to Spain's Development Ministry Web Site, over the Mediterranean on the Spanish coast and Balearic Islands.

Some 200 aftershocks hit north Algeria in the first two hours and authorities warned many more would follow.

At Algiers' principal Mustapha hospital families gathered to ask about the fate of loved ones. Police forced back the growing crowd, said a Reuters reporter at the scene.

"I want to see my brother. I want to know if he is dead or still alive. Please let me get inside," said a crying Ahmed, 40, who had come from Rouiba.

Authorities urged doctors, nurses and utility workers to report for work immediately.

The U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center said the epicenter was near the town of Thenia, 70 km (45 miles) east of Algiers, and 10 km (six miles) below ground.

A Survey spokesman said the magnitude, shallowness and proximity to Algiers -- which itself has at least 2.6 million people -- were all factors tending toward high casualties.

The U.S. institute said the quake measured 6.7 on the open-ended Richter scale and was the biggest to hit the North African country since 1980, when a much stronger earthquake, measuring 7.7, killed at least 4,500 people in the west.

In 1994, about 150,000 were made homeless by an earthquake in northwest Algeria, with the death toll over 170.

An earthquake in 1999 also killed 22 people.

Algerian seismologists put the tremor's strength at 5.2 on the Richter scale but said they used a different calibration to the international community.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika chaired a disaster crisis committee and sent his interior minister to stricken sites.


State media interrupted programs to urge people to go outdoors and stay away from buildings.

"Leave your home, turn off the gas and don't use elevators. Stay calm," the television said.

Algerian radio said a small hotel collapsed in downtown Algiers, killing one person.

Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni visited Boumerdes and said the priority was saving people in the rubble.

"I would like to reassure all citizens that we have all the capabilities to help them," he told state television.

The hardest hit region is also where Algeria's violent Islamist militant group Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) is based and where guerrilla attacks are frequent.

Local journalists said they had received reports that police were out in force in some towns to prevent looting.

Algeria has fought a crippling low-level conflict against Islamic extremists for a decade since elections they appeared heading to win were scrapped.

Strong earthquake shakes Algiers

ALGIERS (Reuters) - An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale has hit the Algerian capital, but there is no immediate word on damage or casualties.

Reuters correspondents in Algiers said the earthquake shook buildings and lasted several seconds.

"Families ran out in panic into the streets, but we couldn't see any damage. It lasted for several seconds," one said.

"It is not clear if there is damage," Algerian state radio said, adding that the quake hit the capital and surrounding areas.

The radio interrupted programmes to urge people to leave their homes. "Leave your home, turn off the gas and don't use elevators. Stay calm."

Algeria Earthquake Kills 250, Injures 1,672

The Associated Press

Wednesday, May 21, 2003; 8:43 PM

ALGIERS, Algeria - A strong earthquake shook the Algerian capital region Wednesday night, killing more than 250 people and injuring 1,672 others, state-run radio said.

The quake hit about 7:45 p.m., cutting electricity in some neighborhoods of Algiers and causing panic throughout the city. It was followed by at least three aftershocks.

Algerian officials gave the magnitude at 5.4, but the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington put it at 6.7. The cause of the discrepancy wasn't immediately clear.

State radio said that most of the deaths occurred near the epicenter, located near Phenia, about 40 miles east of Algiers.

According to the radio, 104 people were killed in the town of Rouiba, 20 miles east of Algiers. Also, 50 died in Boumerdes, about six miles from the epicenter; 42 were killed in the town of Ain Taya, about 20 miles from the capital; and 15 were killed in Algiers, the capital.

Two more deaths were counted in the Berber capital of Tizi Ouzou, and one more in Bouira, both further east, the radio said.

Earlier the Interior Ministry put the death toll at 95.

"I saw the earth tremble. I saw people jump from the window of the hotel," Icham Mouiss of Boumerdes told French television station LCI.

Interior Minister Nouredine Yazid Zerhouni traveled to Phenia and Boumerdes. A call for blood donors was issued and medical personnel were asked to pitch in and help.

A hospital in the town of Baghlia was seriously damaged by the quake and numerous roofs in towns around the epicenter caved in, the Interior Ministry said.

In Algiers, cracks appeared in a number of buildings. LCI air footage of a stairwell in one building that had crumbled to the ground. People thronged the streets, afraid to enter their buildings.

Butch Kinerney, spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey, called it a shallow earthquake that was capable of causing "significant damage and injuries."

He said that in 1980, hundreds of people were killed in a magnitude 7.7 quake in the same region. "This is the largest since then," Kinerney said.

2003 The Associated Press

Quake kills more than 640 in Algeria

Nearly 5,000 reported injured in 6.7 temblor,  government officials say


ALGIERS, Algeria, May 22 — A powerful earthquake that struck northern Algeria killed at least 640 people and injured nearly 5,000 others, the government said Thursday. Among the areas hardest hit was the city of Rouiba to the east of the capital, Algiers. The quake had a magnitude of 6.7 on the open-ended Richter scale, U.S. experts said.

THE QUAKE sent panicked families running into the streets of Algiers, where buildings in some districts were damaged. The tremor hit at 7:44 p.m. Wednesday (2:44 p.m. EDT).

Algerian television showed injured people in a hospital. “Parts of several buildings have collapsed in many of Algiers’ districts. There are people injured,” a civil defense official in the city center told Reuters.

As rescue workers toiled through the night, scrabbling at mounds of rubble to reach families trapped in ruined homes, the government said the death toll looked set to rise further.

Hospitals in the capital and hardest-hit cities were finding it almost impossible to cope, medical staff said. In the hardest hit province, Boumerdes, bodies were piled up outside hospitals and patients were treated in the open air.

Authorities urged doctors and paramedics to go to hospitals to help and citizens to donate blood.

The latest toll given by officials to state media was 643 dead and over 4,600 injured. In the capital Algiers at least 57 buildings were destroyed, among them Algeria’s Training Center for the National Sporting Elite.


“Unfortunately, the numbers are likely to rise. Buildings have collapsed. Entire families are underneath,” Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said.

One of the worst affected places was Rouiba, a relatively prosperous city some 20 miles from Algiers’ eastern suburbs. In the city, one building after another was reduced to a pile of rubble in a scene of utter devastation.

“I have never seen such a disaster in my life. Everything has collapsed,” said Yazid Khelfaoui, who lost his mother in the disaster. The rubble of his apartment block was all around him.

In the badly hit coastal city of Boumerdes, media reports spoke of people jumping from windows as they tried to save themselves. State television also said a small hospital had collapsed in Boumerdes, but gave few details.

“It’s about saving lives tonight,” Ouyahia told state radio early on Thursday. “It’s a tragic moment. ... It’s a misfortune that hits the whole of Algeria.”

A victim on a stretcher is carried into a hospital in Algiers after the earthquake hit the area Wednesday night.


“Families ran out in panic into the streets but we couldn’t see any damage. It lasted for several seconds,” a Reuters correspondent said by telephone from a tall Algiers hotel that shook.

‘It’s a tragic moment. ... It’s a misfortune that hits the whole of Algeria.’


Algerian prime minister The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center said the epicenter was near the town of Thenia, 45 miles east of Algiers, and six miles below ground.

Algerian television showed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, visibly moved, holding the hands of a middle-aged woman in hospital whose face and lips were shaking uncontrollably. Bouteflika directed a disaster crisis committee and sent his interior minister to stricken sites.

Ouyahia said security forces were on alert to stop looting in a country riven by a decade of violence by Islamist rebels. More than 100,000 have died and the economy has suffered despite hefty export earnings from natural gas and oil.

Algerian state radio interrupted programs to urge people to go outdoors and stay away from buildings. “Leave your home, turn off the gas and don’t use elevators. Stay calm,” on broadcast said.

Algerian television said authorities urged doctors, nurses and utility workers to report for work immediately.

France said it was sending 120 rescue staff, sniffer dogs and emergency equipment to help with rescue efforts.

Two teams will leave immediately in military transport planes for the Algerian capital, a spokeswoman for the presidential office said.

“France is in touch with the Algerian authorities and will look favorably on any request for help which it receives,” the spokeswoman said.


Most of Algeria’s 32 million people live in the north, away from the desert. Algiers alone is home to at least 2.6 million.

Wednesday’s earthquake was the strongest to hit the North African country since 1980, when a quake measuring 7.7 killed at least 4,500 people in the west.

In 1994, about 150,000 were left homeless by an earthquake that killed more than 170 people in northwest Algeria. An earthquake in 1999 also killed 22 people.

A USGS spokesman said the magnitude, shallowness and proximity to Algiers of Wednesday’s quake were all factors that would tend toward significant casualties.

Butch Kinerney, the spokesman, called it a shallow earthquake that was capable of causing “significant damage and injuries.” He said that in 1980, hundreds of people were killed in the 7.7 quake in the same region. “This is the largest since then,” Kinerney said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Posted on Fri, May. 23, 2003

Rescuers scramble to find survivors of Algeria quake


By Aomar Ouali

Associated Press

ROUIBA, Algeria - Rescuers clawed by hand through rubble as stunned and weeping survivors wandered through collapsed buildings Thursday, after Algeria's worst earthquake in two decades killed nearly 1,100 people, injured thousands and left thousands more homeless.

Officials feared the death toll would increase with the search for bodies and survivors, helped by emergency teams from Europe and Asia that rushed to this North African country of 30 million after Wednesday night's disaster.

Entire families were killed in the 6.8-magnitude quake, which was strongest about 60 miles east of the capital, Algiers. Injured people overflowed hospitals. Rescuers calling to any survivors under the wreckage occasionally heard voices answer back.

``The building shook like a ship. I sheltered with my daughters in a door frame. That's why we're still alive,'' said Fatma Ferhani, 70, of Rouiba, a town 13 miles east of Algiers and near the epicenter.

Entire blocks lay in ruins. Mechanical diggers lifted away rubble as soldiers and civilians used their hands to scoop up small chunks of debris or probe through dirt for victims.

Rescuers pulled a young woman alive from the ruins, according to France-Info radio.

Women cried out the names of their dead or injured children, wails that mingled with the screams of ambulance sirens. Bodies piled at the town morgue were wrapped in blankets or plastic bags.

When the quake hit, ``People yelled, `God is Great!' '' said resident Hakim Derradji. ``It was horrible, it was like we had been bombed.''

Late Thursday, the official APS news agency said at least 1,092 were dead and 6,782 were injured. State-run radio gave a higher toll of 1,225. Thousands more were left homeless.

The earthquake was the most devastating to hit Algeria since a magnitude-7.1 quake struck west of the capital Oct. 10, 1980, killing more than 4,500 people.

``Unfortunately, we have not finished establishing these increasingly tragic figures,'' Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said. ``What is worrying is that there are still many under the rubble.''

The quake, which struck at about 7:45 p.m., cut electricity in some Algiers neighborhoods and sparked panic throughout the city. About 10 aftershocks rippled through the area in the following hours, though the city was calm by Thursday afternoon.

The capital of Algiers, however, was mostly spared from the devastation further east. Several apartment balconies and sleeping hideaways in attics in the capital collapsed, however.

And a building used by athletes was severely damaged, killing the head of Algeria's track and field team and the coach of the national weightlifting squad.

Algiers residents thronged the streets, preferring to be outdoors for fear of another temblor. Some schools were opened to take in people whose homes were unsafe.

``It was a great shock,'' said Mohcine Douali, who lives in central Algiers. ``I ran out to the street with my wife and my two daughters, and no one has been able to sleep because of the aftershocks.''

Numerous towns were devastated throughout the Boumerdes region, where the epicenter was located. Residents swarmed to hospitals seeking treatment for injuries or news of loved ones. Dozens of bodies were laid out, their families weeping over them.

In Dergane, eight members of the same family -- including a month-old baby -- were killed as they sought shelter in their cellar.

The quake triggered 7-foot waves that damaged 150 boats off Spain's Balearic Islands, 175 miles north of Algiers, officials said. Underwater telephone cables were damaged, disrupting international communications, France Telecom said.

Algeria could face political aftershocks as well. With elections due  next year, support for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika could slide if efforts to help quake survivors flag.


(AGI) - Rome, Italy, May 26 - Another 2280 for 18000 people have been put at the Interior Ministry's disposition, in the ambit of them aid given by Italy for Algeria, following the 21 May earthquake.

The equipment, from assistance and rescue centres in Rome, Caserta, Catanzaro, Potenza and Reggio Calabria, from the Fire Brigade, public assistance and civil defence, will be sent this evening from Civitavecchia (465 tents and 6000 blankets) and from Gioia Tauro (1815 tents) and will be added to 50 tents already sent to create a first tent-city.

The aid given by the Ministry until now, is two international operations groups, earthquake version, with ten firemen from Rome and three off-road vehicles, nine from Pisa and two off-road vehicles, two structural engineers from the Fire Brigade, besides a lot of search equipment. (AGI)

261443 MAG 03

COPYRIGHTS 2002-2003 AGI S.p.A.

Algerian earthquake survivors angry at government's inadequate rescue efforts

As the death toll continued to rise, Algerian earthquake survivors and media vented their anger on Saturday, at the government's inadequate rescue efforts. The government has once again revised the death toll from Wednesday's earthquake up to more than 1,785 and the figure is expected to rise further as rescue workers continue searching through the rubble of collapsed buildings. More than 7,690 people were injured and hundreds are still reported missing. The earthquake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale and hit just east of the capital Algiers. Foreign rescuers with sniffer dogs, including teams from Germany, Britain and Spain, have arrived and are helping in the search efforts.

Algeria Earthquake Kills Nearly 2,200

Looting, Disease Threatens Survivors of Algeria Earthquake That Killed Nearly 2,200 People

The Associated Press

REGHAIA, Algeria May 26, 2003 —

Looting and disease threatened survivors of Algeria's earthquake, and foreign rescuers began to pull out Sunday as hopes diminished for finding more people alive in the ruins.

As the death toll from Wednesday's quake neared 2,200, anger erupted over the slowness and meagerness of government aid and rescue efforts, with many people calling for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's resignation.

Their homes demolished, some survivors have been living in makeshift camps of tarpaulins, umbrellas and sheets in open spaces amid the wreckage.

Furious crowds harangued the president as he toured the devastated region east of the capital Algiers where the quake's epicenter was located, causing him to cut short his visit.

Several newspapers mirrored that mood on their front pages Sunday. "Resign, Mister Bouteflika," Le Matin demanded. "Leave!" said Le Soir d'Algerie.

Four days after the quake, authorities were far from establishing a definitive death toll, saying countless bodies were believed buried under fallen buildings. As of Sunday, the known toll stood at 2,162 dead and 8,965 injured, the Interior Ministry said.

In the town of Reghaia, a single flattened 10-story building was thought to hold more than 500 bodies, officials said. Police and soldiers blocked streets leading to the ruin, standing guard in the stench of decaying bodies and clouds of dust kicked up by the wind.

Survivors who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods banded together to protect what remained, forming patrols to guard their neighborhoods from looters.

Dozens of angry locals grabbed a suspected jewelry thief in an evacuated building, dragging him by the scruff of his neck through the streets. Police struggled to keep the crowd at bay before taking the man away in a car.

"People in vans were seen looking around for things they could steal, but they saw we were well prepared," said Samir Helli, 26, who works in a diaper factory. "If they try to take anything, they will be strangled."

Reghaia, a town of 120,000 people 15 miles east of Algiers, didn't suffer the devastation as in nearby communities that were almost flattened, but many of its buildings were damaged. Structural experts were checking to see which could be salvaged, and said repairs could take months.

While their homes were too unsafe to live in, many people here were able to recover refrigerators, televisions and other belongings. They said police, who concentrated on protecting shops in the city center, were too overwhelmed to patrol elsewhere.

"We have had to take care of our own security and that of our family by ourselves," said Ahcene Kabash, a construction supervisor who, like many survivors, wore a white mask below his bloodshot eyes against dust and the smell of decay.

Officials in Reghaia insisted they were doing all they could and denied that looting was a problem. "This is not like Iraq," said Ahmed Makhloufi, the city's vice president for social affairs.

But outside the fissured town hall, an official fended off frustrated women, men and even children demanding tents.

"We still need about a thousand tents," the official told the crowd. "Maybe, God willing, we'll have the problem sorted in two or three days."

Survivors sickened by drinking dirty water flocked to a health center next to one makeshift camp, suffering from diarrhea. The center also treated more than 20 people Sunday for panic attacks and headaches symptoms of stress, health workers said.

"People are drinking water that's meant for washing their hands. It's full of germs and dirt," said Malika Lamare, a doctor at the center.

"It's the lack of water and the heat," Lamare added. "Without water, they risk death."

In Algiers, Yahia Dahar, director general of Mustapha Hospital, Algeria's largest, insisted health authorities were prepared for any outbreak of disease. "The health ministry has sent teams of epidemiologists to the stricken regions," he said.

Pupils whose schools were wrecked will start the summer recess immediately, in part "because of the psychological trauma they've been through," Education Minister Abou Bakr Ben Bouzid told Algerian radio.

With hopes all but gone of finding more survivors, foreign rescue teams prepared to go home. A 90-member Swiss team that left the Boumerdes region, where the quake was strongest, was expected back in Switzerland on Monday.

Survivors in Reghaia pinned photographs of missing loved ones to walls. "Mr. Madani Chergui is sought by his family. Please call," read one note under a picture of a middle-aged man.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press reporter Kim Housego contributed to this story.

Aftershock Kills 3, Hurts 187 in Algeria

Tuesday May 27, 2003 9:39 PM


Associated Press Writer

TIDJELABINE, Algeria (AP) - An Islamic party set up a camp Tuesday for people left homeless by Algeria's devastating earthquake and handed out food and water, showing itself ready to fill the vacuum of aid distribution left by the government.

Since last week's killer quake, anger has mounted at what survivors say is the slow government response - with townspeople at times pelting visiting senior officials, even the president, with stones or debris.

The interior minister was so angered by jeers from survivors in one town that he threatened to withhold tents and other aid if protests continued, witnesses said. The government later apologized.

But the criticism has provided an opening for Muslim fundamentalists, despite efforts to squeeze them out by the military-backed government, which has battled armed Islamic radicals in a civil war since 1992.

``We want to take charge of families in this village for one or two years until they can be housed again,'' said Ahmed Houlim, a member of El-Islah oua El-Irched, an aid group run by a moderate Islamic party.

The May 21 quake killed at least 2,218 people, injured more than 9,000, and left an unknown number missing.

Panic spread again in the quake zone east of the capital, Algiers, when the strongest aftershock yet rocked the region Tuesday, killing at least three people and injuring 187, state radio said.

The radio said the aftershock had a magnitude of 5.8. In the quake-ravaged town of Boumerdes, at least one home collapsed, the report said.

Guests fled a hotel in Algiers, fearing a collapse, and rattled staff huddled together for comfort.

Since the quake, many residents have been living in the streets or in tents set up in parks, fearing aftershocks could topple unstable buildings.

El-Islah did not hide the fact that it was looking to attract supporters as it set up tents for 13 families whose homes were left in ruins in Tidjelabine, a town of 10,000 near the quake's epicenter. Some Islah workers wore aprons with their party name and logo displayed on the back.

Houlim, who was overseeing the building of toilets in the camp, said Islah teams were in all quake-hit areas, including hard-hit areas such as Boumerdes and Zemmouri.

``We are much better organized than the state,'' he said. ``When there are elections, local or presidential, there are candidates in our organization and if people want to vote for them, they should.''

But some residents said they objected to attempts to use their hardship for political gain.

Just across from the camp, in a school courtyard, dozens of people lined up for biscuits, water and sugar at a distribution center run by local authorities, who are under the control of the local mayor - a member of the ruling National Liberation Front.

The Islah activists ``are doing it for political interest, that's not good,'' Rasaid Azem, the center's manager, said.

He dismissed accusations the government and the authorities have done too little too late to help quake victims.

``Everything is now under control, we have all the necessary items,'' he said, as a truck packed with dozens of brand new mattresses pulled in. ``You must not listen to stricken people outside who say they have nothing, it's not true.''

The government has grown jittery over Muslim groups that excelled in providing aid - and winning gratitude - during the November 2001 flooding in Algiers that killed more than 700 people.

Fearful that fundamentalists could turn that gratitude into political power, the government issued a warning on Monday against ``irregular'' collection and distribution of donations for quake victims. The government lumps such groups with Islamic insurgents it has been fighting since 1992; 120,000 people have died.

El-Islah is a government-recognized group and not legally a target of the warning.

Tensions over the recovery and relief effort bubbled to the surface Monday, when Interior Minister Yazid Noureddine Zerhouni was greeted during a visit to Bordj El Kiffan with cries of ``police state, dictatorship'' and ``Leave. We don't need you,'' the newspaper Le Matin reported.

Witnesses said the minister apparently lost his temper and threatened to withhold aid.

``He poked me in the chest and told me: 'There will be neither tents nor any other kind of aid for you if you're going to riot,'' said Abderrahmane Khodja, the head of a residents' committee in an apartment complex that collapsed, leaving 150 families homeless.

Still, most quake victims said they didn't care about politics, but just want tents, medicines, clean water and blankets.

``We are victims of an earthquake,'' said Djamel Zidi, a 39-year-old teacher, his voice rising in anger. ``We haven't time for politics.''

The last thing on Djillali Gourmi's mind was who he might vote for in next year's presidential elections.

The 37-year-old bus driver's only concern is when his family will have a home; their apartment bloc was damaged beyond repair and will be torn down.

``The priority must be to help stricken people ... to rebuild homes,'' he said. ``The rest doesn't matter.''

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003


5-26-03 - JAPAN - 7.0

5-26-03 - INDONESIA - 7.0


5-1-03 - TURKEY QUAKE - 6.7

L.A. AWARE  5-21-03