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PERU Local couple witnesses earthquake



Published: Fri, June 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Bristolville couple said many of the city's historic sites were heavily damaged.

YOUNGSTOWN -- His legs trembling atop the roof of a partially built church in Peru, Harry Lucik witnessed a devastation he had never imagined near his Ohio home.

Adobe bricks crashed from homes into the streets. Tidal waves transformed the road into a waterbed. Dust rose into the air, obscuring the snow-capped Andes Mountains.

Crying and screaming filled the air.

With the building rumbling beneath him -- 120 miles from the center of an earthquake that struck Peru on Saturday -- the Bristolville resident felt the fear that comes when an earthquake strikes.

'Terrifying': "It started shaking, really shaking," said Lucik, reached by telephone at the motel where he is staying. "It was absolutely terrifying. The whole building is concrete and steel but it felt like a paper bag."

Lucik, 69, and his wife Nancy, 67, are among 19 volunteers who are part of an Assembly of God missionary group that traveled to Arequipa, Peru, to build a church.

The 8.1-magnitude earthquake that struck the area killed at least 102 people and injuring more than 1,300. More than 47,000 Peruvians were left homeless. No one in the missionary group was harmed.

Nancy Lucik sat in a truck in another part of the city when the quake struck.

"The truck started moving from side to side," she said. "The bus [in front of the truck] was rocking back and forth."

She added that she sat in the truck and prayed as, around her, people streamed from their houses and drivers of cars rushed toward home.

Sad sight: "It was sad," she continued. "You could just see the fear in people's eyes. Men were running home to see if their families were OK."

Harry Lucik spoke of the devastation to this "beautiful, beautiful" city. Historic buildings now show cracks and caved-in roofs. Two towers toppled at a cathedral known as the "Vatican of South America."

Many survivors are homeless, living in tents provided by the Red Cross.

"It's unreal," Harry Lucik said. "It's just unexplainable."

After the shock of the initial quake, several tremors continued to strike.

One aftershock hit Monday night as the couple slept at the hotel. Rumbling, shifting and the sound of breaking glass woke the couple and others staying at the hotel.

With the power out, members of the church group scrambled for flashlights.

People ran into the streets screaming. "It was just total terror," Harry Lucik said.

The destruction is a reason local people should send help to Peruvians desperately in need, said Dr. Javier Calderon, whose father lives near the devastated area.

Dr. Calderon, an infectious diseases specialist, works in Youngstown out of the St. Elizabeth Health Center and Forum Health Northside Medical Center.

The doctor, 39, grew up in Peru, moving to America 10 years ago. His father Efrain, an ophthalmologist, lives in Arequipa and was home for an afternoon nap when the earth shook.

"He was, of course, confused and panicked but able to get himself out of the house," Dr. Calderon said.

The Luciks will return from their 11-day trip Friday. The couple makes the trip once or twice each year.

Despite the shake-up, Harry Lucik said his devotion to that missionary work remains unshaken.

"We experienced it and I'm glad we experienced it, but I'm glad we're all safe and well," he said. "The Lord is with us."

XThe Associated Press contributed to this report.




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