Death Toll From El Salvador Quake Nears 700

Jose Vallentin and nine other men from the dirt-poor neighborhood of San Antonio set out walking along the highway Tuesday in search of food and drinking water. The subsistence apple farmer had heard rumors there were aid trucks distributing supplies on a highway shoulder 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.

The rumors were true, but the mammoth Red Cross truck pulled away just as the group was arriving. All the food was gone, they were told. They were given three Gatorade bottles filled with purified water. Vallentin's share was about a quarter of a bottle.

When they returned home, a group of volunteers in a rusty yellow pickup was handing out plastic plates heaping with black beans and tortillas. Vallentin's wife, Rosa, had braved a two-hour line to bring him a plate of food.

Vallentin walked into what was left of his home — a mountain of smashed roofing tile flanked by two sloping brick walls. His daughter, 7-year-old Veronica, was sitting on the cardboard box that now doubles as her bed.

She had trouble opening the bottle's lid. He helped her open it and watched as she took a long drink. When she finished all the water was gone.

"Today we eat," Vallentin said, smiling at Rosa. "We can find something to drink tomorrow.

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