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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Major Earthquake Strike Algeria

Aired May 21, 2003 - 20:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: More now on that earthquake that hit about 50 miles east of Algiers. We now have a Reuters reporter, Paul Bendern. He's on the phone with us from Algeria to tell us the latest about this quake that as we understand hit with magnitude 6.7 force.
Paul, what can you tell us?

PAUL DE BENDERN, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, the earthquake hit about 7:44 our time, and it shook. I was in a hotel here in central Algiers, and it shook very violently. People running out, panicking into the streets.

Of course, what happened afterwards is we found out that the death toll has been rising gradually. At the moment over 250 people have died and about 1,700 injured, mostly in these towns east of the capital. It is very difficult at the moment to get people out of the rubble and into hospital because the houses and buildings have collapsed like a house of cards.

And you have no electricity in the main town where most of these deaths have occurred. People are searching for their loved ones with torches. And it is very difficult to get people to hospital. And at hospital they're overcrowded at the moment. It's a panic in a way, but you have families helping -- pretty much everybody's helping in this situation.

KAGAN: Is this an area that's used to be hitting by earthquakes?

DE BENDERN: Yes. The whole north of Algeria is a place you that do get earthquakes, but it's many years now since we've had such a violent earthquake. And I think it's to a certain extent it was -- people were unprepared for it.

But it is at the moment very difficult to tell how many deaths there are going to be, and the government has said that the numbers are likely to rise. And so it's -- and they've urged people to go to the hospital to donate blood. The Red Cross has come out, urged people to help. And all government authorities are engaged as well.

KAGAN: It's a story that we will be tracking. Paul Bendern of Reuters, thank you so much, joining us from Algeria.

The latest on that earthquake, magnitude 6.7. At this point at least 250 killed, as you heard, a number of people injured as well.

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