Peru Quake Victims Face Uncertain Future

Life was hard enough for most people in this desert region of farmers and fishermen devastated by last week's deadly earthquake. They eked out only a day-to-day existence.

Now factories damaged by the magnitude-8 earthquake offer no work. Dozens of fishermen lost their boats in a tidal surge and none have yet ventured back to sea. With water distribution ruptured, farmers fear their animals will die and crops wilt away.

Food, water and clothing were finally arriving outside hard-hit urban zones, although only in a trickle. Tents and blankets, however, remained in short supply.

Along the highways Monday, people held open plastic bags or simply extended arms with empty baseball caps, pleading for a handout.

At this crossroads town on the Panamerican highway in the heart of the quake-stricken region, Victoria Mancilla stood in the entrance of the reed-matted hut crammed with a few mattresses where she's lived with her two daughters since their home came crashing down.

Mancilla, 58, sells ceviche, a fish dish, on the street. But fishing has yet to resume — the region's 1,500 fishermen are waiting for aftershocks to end and authorities to give the go-ahead.

"There's no fish and there's no electricity anyway to keep it fresh," said Mancilla, fighting back tears. The quake killed her 23-month-old granddaughter and broke her husband's arm. All of them had been at home.

"We need to rebuild our houses. We need bricks and cement. Who is going to give us that?" she asked, desperation in her voice. "And we're all women. There are no men in this family and my husband is hurt."

President Alan Garcia said in Lima on Monday that cleaning the streets and rebuilding in a region where the quake rendered 80,000 homeless are now top priorities. The government will then build small two-story houses for those who lost their homes.

Though he estimated all rubble would be cleared in 15 days so families could start rebuilding, no one was clearing rubble on Monday in San Clemente, where 2,000 people lined up for relief supplies.

Meanwhile, the 274 residents of Monte Sierpe — where almost every home was destroyed or rendered uninhabitable — wondered about their next meal.

"They gave us aid the day before yesterday and thanks to that we had enough to eat today. But we don't yet have for tomorrow," said Jaime Cervantes, the village's second-in-command. "They've told us we'll get another shipment later on. But really, it's not much."