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Colombia Toll Climbs; Survivors Being Sought

Earthquake: Thousands are injured, and authorities fear deaths may top 1,000. Extent of damage unclear.

January 27, 1999|JUANITA DARLING and DAVID AQUILA LAWRENCE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Colombian First Lady Norah Puyana de Pastrana is in charge of a relief fund that had already raised more than $600,000. Assistance also arrived in the form of food, clothing, tents, medicine and portable electric generators.

Among the first embassies to respond to calls for international aid was that of Nicaragua, which offered a portion of the aid it had collected as relief for victims of Hurricane Mitch.

The Japanese Embassy offered a team of 35 earthquake experts, and the United States sent 62 Miami-Dade County firefighters from Florida.

Colombian President Andres Pastrana decided to cancel a scheduled trip to Europe, where he was to meet with World Bank officials and Pope John Paul II. Pastrana's office contracted with a Bogota accounting firm to oversee donations and the delivery of relief aid and to prevent misuse of relief funds.

"I give my firm promise to dedicate all of the resources available, and I do mean all of the resources available, to take care of the victims of this disaster," Pastrana said.

He announced that Colombia will receive $100 million in loans from the World Bank and that President Clinton, along with other heads of state, had called him.

Darling reported from Armenia and Lawrence from Bogota.

* ANXIETY--AND RELIEF: Colombians in Southland desperately seek news from home as the aid effort begins. B1

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