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Rescuers hampered by looters.

British volunteers were among the many rescue and relief teams from across the world that arrived in Colombia yesterday to join the search for earthquake survivors.

Representatives from Oxfam as well as a ten-member team from the International Rescue Corps arrived in the disaster-stricken country to offer help and assistance.

A spokesman for the IRC confirmed that the team had flown into Bogota and was now staying at an army base on the outskirts of badly-hit Armenia.

He said the team, which includes two women, had already carried out some reconnaissance missions in the area, but had been forced to do so under military escort because of the levels of civil unrest.

Colombian president Mr Andres Pastrana yesterday rushed to the earthquake-ravaged region and ordered troops on to the streets to stop looting by hundreds of survivors.

Riot police backed by troops fired bursts of automatic gunfire into the air but were largely unable to quell the disturbances as mob rule took hold.

The spokesman for the IRC said: "They are waiting to go out and do the work, but it seems that the authorities are slightly hesitant about it because they do not want to put the rescuers at risk."

The team is armed with thermal imaging cameras and sound equipment which can detect the tiniest movements of survivors trapped under wrecked buildings.

The spokesman said it was important to keep trying to find people as it was possible to survive for up to 21 days under the rubble.

"We cannot give up. A life is a life. If there is a chance that someone is alive, we will look," he said.

The death toll from Monday's quake is already believed to be more than 2,000 with at least 3,400 injured - 878 bodies have been recovered from shattered cities and villages across western Colombia.

Oxfam sprang into action, sending a specialist team to visit the devastated area, while volunteers at home prepared to send out vital supplies.

A spokeswoman at the Oxfam Emergencies warehouse in Bicester said pounds 35,000 of equipment had already been taken to Heathrow and loaded on to a plane.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 29, 1999
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