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Peru town hit by 2007 quake still under rubble

By Luis Carlos Velez, CNN
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Pisco, Peru earthquake two years later
  • Peruvian town hit by quake in 2007 still far from rebuilt
  • Mayor's office estimates reconstruction cost of $539 million
  • Pisco hit by 7.9 quake in August 2007
  • Pisco
  • Peru
  • Earthquakes
  • Lima

Pisco, Peru (CNN) -- One street in Pisco is lined with what appears to be homes, but these are facades: They are thin walls of bricks recreating fake homes, like those found on movie sets.

Pisco is a forgotten city. But nearly three years ago it made international headlines when it was jolted by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake on August 15, 2007, that killed more than 1,500 people and injured more than 2,000 others.

Promises started to pour in as fast as the trembling ended. Peruvians mobilized tons of food and material to reconstruct the affected areas. Locals say that, back then, it looked like it wasn't going to be so hard to get over the disaster.

But nothing was so far from the truth.

In April 2010, the city looks like the quake struck only a few hours ago. When driving from the airport to the city, it is easy to notice the rubble piled along the road and the fake homes.

"We got screwed, I'm sorry sir, but that is the crude reality here," said local resident Ricardo Chui. He is seated on the remains of what used to be Plaza Colon. "It was very nice here. But as you can see now, there is nothing left."

In Pisco, the central plaza was heavily damaged and it is an example of the reality here: The mayor's office is partially abandoned and next to it there is an empty lot where the cathedral used to be. It tumbled during the earthquake and hasn't been rebuilt.

Experts say the reconstruction should cost about $539 million, according to a statement posted on the website of Pisco Mayor Juan Mendoza.

When asked about the lack of reconstruction and the home facades, an advisor to the mayor read to CNN a statement signed by Mendoza: "It's true that the international help arrived to Peru in order to help Pisco. The question is to where exactly did it go? A history of bureaucracy in Peru is making the reconstruction very slow."

Federal government authorities in the capital of Lima have said that they will have fixed the ports by next year.

Many residents don't believe central government pledges on the reconstruction. Speaking with them, it is easy to conclude that hope is disappearing.