LIMA, Peru Peruvians flooded the streets Friday to protest the slow pace of reconstruction a year after a magnitude-8.0 earthquake left tens of thousands homeless.
The Aug. 15, 2007, quake killed more than 500 people, destroying about 40,000 homes on Peru's southern coast, where many locals still scrape by living in government-provided tents or makeshift wooden huts. Friday was decreed a national day of mourning in their memory, and Peruvian flags flew at half-staff.
In Pisco, a port city that lost more than 11,000 homes, protesters banged pots and pans, while simultaneous strikes in the cities of Ica and Chincha demanded the government speed up its $382 million reconstruction effort.
Most protests unfolded peacefully except one along a section of the Pan-American Highway near Chincha, where police used tear gas to disperse crowds blocking the roadway. Six people were arrested for throwing rocks at a police vehicle, Chincha police officer Julio Anton said.
About 30,000 families have received government credits worth $2,045 to help build new homes, and bonds for another 8,000 families are pending, President Alan Garcia said Tuesday. He acknowledged that government efforts have not been enough.
Damaged houses and buildings stand empty waiting demolition, and neighbors continue to hope for aid, said 17-year-old Pisco resident Sara Ucharina Purre.
"When your name gets called, they tell you to wait until Monday or until next week, and the money never comes," said Ucharina, who marched with students on Thursday. She and her classmates still hold class in tents while their school is being rebuilt.
"At this rate reconstruction will last 10 years, and a generation of our citizens, of our children, will be raised in inequality because they live in huts and have nowhere to study," Gov. Romulo Triveno, who governs the Ica province where the quake hit, told Peru's congress on Thursday.
He thanked foreign aid groups including the government of Venezuela for their help. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has feuded openly with Garcia, donated 100 homes to families in Chincha, where about 17,500 houses were destroyed.