Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Associated Press

BOUMERDES, Algeria (AP) - Furious crowds hurled debris and insults at Algeria's president Saturday when he visited a town devastated by an earthquake, blaming the government for a death toll that rose to nearly 1,900 and shortages of food and water.

The anger came as Japanese rescue workers said they pulled a survivor - a 21-year-old waiter - from the rubble of a hotel on the Mediterranean coast at midnight Friday, more than two days after the quake hit.

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake flattened villages east of Algiers on Wednesday night. The government on Saturday said at least 1,875 people were killed and 7,691 people were injured.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika tried to tour the quake-ravaged town of Boumerdes on Saturday, but angry crowds harangued him with shouts of "pouvoir assassin!" - a common slogan roughly translated as "the authorities - killers."

Police fought to hold back the crowd as Bouteflika drove away, with many people throwing chunks of rubble and other objects at his car and some kicking the cars in his motorcade. Bouteflika was not hurt.

The abuse directed at Bouteflika and other officials was a bold display of criticism against a military-backed government known to clamp down on dissent.

Amid the strife and destruction, Japanese aid workers on Saturday said they had some good news. After 3-1/2 hours of digging through the wrecked Adim Beach Resort at Zemmouri, they rescued a man who somehow had escaped injury.

"It was almost a miracle. He was unscathed," said Toshimitsu Ishigure, director of the Japanese Overseas Disaster Assistance. "He was able to breathe because he had a half-foot of space from a slab lying on top."

Hopes of finding further survivors, however, was evaporating. Ishigure said rescues became far less likely more than 72 hours after a quake, and British officials said Saturday they soon would withdraw rescue workers and replace them with relief and recovery experts.

The death toll was expected to rise as bodies are pulled from the rubble, and Hakim Mohand, of the Algerian civil protection unit, said it could reach 3,000.

Townspeople across the quake zone accused the government of inadequately providing food, medicine and blankets.

The threat of disease was rising, they said, especially with temperatures rising to 104.

"Other risks such as infection must be tackled," Willie McMartin of Britain's International Rescue Corps told the Press Association news agency in Algeria. "There is an immediate need for disinfectant to be sprayed."

In Bordj Menaiel, a town of 20,000 people built largely by Algeria's former French colonial rulers, residents claimed the government had done nothing to help them.

Townspeople said the lack of necessities was exacerbating tensions between the ethnic Berbers who live here and Algeria's Arab-run government.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

0
0
0
0
0