CORSO, Algeria – A wide-eyed Algerian toddler was tenderly lifted from the ruins of her family's home Friday, two days after a devastating earthquake killed more than 1,600 people — a tiny survivor found by rescuers who heard her plaintive cries for her mother.
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 dressed in a red shirt 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 Wednesday evening earthquake that destroyed their hometown, Corso, east of the capital Algiers (search). However, her sister, 4-year-old Lisa, was missing.
Despite the dramatic rescue, workers said they were losing hope for finding more people alive after the 6.8-magnitude quake.
Rescuers have 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.
"There is not much hope here," he said in front of a collapsed four-story building in the city of Boumerdes. "We have already pulled up four bodies, but we can't get further inside."
More than 1,600 people were confirmed dead and 7,207 injured — but the death toll was 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 — even blankets — accused the government of a poor response to the earthquake.
Left to their own devices, residents struggled in vain to move huge slabs of cement with their bare hands or shovels.
"We have only our hands and hammers," Corso resident Ismail Lizir, 42, said. "There has been no sign of local authorities."
"Nobody has visited us, not even to establish a death count," said 34-year-old Yoscef Manel. "Helicopters flew overhead and the interior minister drove through, but it's noise for nothing."
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.
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 (search) and assured him of the "support and friendship of the United States," the official news agency reported.
In Corso, the quake flattened the bakeries and food was running low. A pharmacist dumped her stocks of medicines onto the pavement and volunteers distributed them.
"We are giving them away to those who need them," said Malek Fadalia. "You can't make people pay at a time like this. People are dying."
In Algiers and across the damaged area, many woke up in streets and public parks Friday after spending the night outdoors, fearful of continuing aftershocks. Police were on heightened alert to stop thieves from looting abandoned homes.
Victims' bodies were wrapped in blankets and plastic bags at morgues. Townspeople searching for missing relatives covered their faces against the stench of decay as they moved from body to body, lifting the blankets to look at the faces of the dead.
The quake hit about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, with its epicenter east of Algiers. It was the North African nation's deadliest since a pair of temblors west of the capital killed up to 5,000 in 1980, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (search).
The quake also ruptured underwater cables, cutting phone links between France and Algeria and disrupting communications with countries in Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific, France Telecom said.
The quake carried risks of political aftershocks, too.
The Algerian government has been battling Islamic insurgents for more than a decade and, with elections due next year, support for Bouteflika could slide amid criticism over quake relief efforts.
Muslim fundamentalists have traditionally excelled in helping the needy. To oversee rescue efforts, Bouteflika canceled plans to join a summit of world leaders in France next week, the state news agency reported.
Many Algerians have complained about the wobbly state of buildings and a housing shortage in a country rich in oil and natural gas.
In Corso, 14 identical apartment houses that townspeople said were built by the same construction company in the mid-1980s collapsed while older buildings withstood the quake. Many people were crushed while trying to run down stairwells to safety.