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Celia Aldana, Media Officer
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LIMA — As aftershocks continued to hit the south of Peru, international aid agency Oxfam has arrived in the epicenter of the crisis to assess its emergency response, which will aim to provide urgent relief such as clean water for city-dwellers displaced by the earthquake and for those who are caught in remote rural areas.
Oxfam's humanitarian officer in Peru, Sergio Alvarez, today traveled to the worst hit zone, including the city of Pisco and the surrounding rural areas—which he reached on foot—and carried out an initial assessment of the devastation. More Oxfam staff including a water engineer will travel this afternoon to Pisco, a city of nearly 120,000 inhabitants. Some 665,000 people live in the wider affected region.
Alvarez said: "It is impossible to get to Pisco from Lima. The San Clemente Bridge that links Pisco with the Pan American highway has collapsed.
"All the adobe buildings in Pisco have collapsed. The modern buildings are fine. The Peruvian Civil Defense has told me that they calculate that at least 50% of the houses in Pisco have collapsed. San Andres, in Cañete, has also suffered a great amount of destruction.
"There are people trapped in their houses, and Pisco's San Clemente church collapsed while mass was underway. The news I'm receiving is that there are many dead bodies. Rescue operations are now underway but fire trucks and other rescue vehicles coming from Lima weren't able to reach the area until 11 am this morning due to the collapsed bridge. They were stuck about one and a half hours away from Pisco but are now in the area and have so far rescued six people trapped under rubble.
"Local authorities are asking for help, particularly with the distribution of medicines, tents and blankets, as many people have lost their homes. The distribution of tents has yet to be organized and there is no electricity or running water in the area. The situation is desperate, especially for those people who survived but who have lost their homes.
"Oxfam is especially worried about people in the rural areas because their houses are extremely vulnerable and they are harder to reach."
Oxfam works with partners in the area affected by the earthquake. In 2001, Oxfam responded to the earthquake in Arequipa, providing water and shelters.
The poorest areas are the ones that consistently suffer the most during and after a natural disaster. In Peru, more than 72% of those in rural areas are living below the poverty line. 49% of the general population lives below the poverty line and almost 32% of the population lives on less than $2 per day.