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Today's Story Line:

January 16, 2001



Six tectonic plates converge in Central America. Tropical storms and hurricanes regularly sweep through the area. And active volcanoes are everywhere. The massive quake this past weekend in El Salvador underscores the need for disaster prevention and preparation that includes strict environmental guidelines (page 1).

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Even as rescue and relief workers pour into El Salvador, aid groups are suspending work in and around Chechnya. The kidnapping of a US aid worker highlights the risks of relief in a war zone (this page).

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

AFTERSHOCKS: Reporter Catherine Elton lived in Lima, Peru, for several years and was used to minor quakes shaking the dishes. But she was unprepared for the force of the many aftershocks while covering the rescue efforts in El Salvador this weekend. Sunday afternoon, an aftershock of magnitude 5.4 hit. "It was scary. I'd never felt anything like it," says Catherine. She wasn't alone. While the professional rescue workers kept going, many Salvadorans helping would scatter, fearing another landslide. At night, many people slept in the streets - literally. "One group is camped in the middle of a traffic circle," Catherine says. "I slept indoors, but with all the tremors, it would have been more restful sleeping outside."

RISKY BUSINESS: The Monitor's Fred Weir and Scott Peterson say that the atmosphere in and around Chechnya is "very tense." Until last week, no foreigners had been kidnapped since October 1999. And aid groups wanted to keep it that way. Fred was there last year with UNICEF, and security was tight. Unlike the Medecins Sans Frontieres workers, UNICEF aid workers traveled in armored columns, with armed security guards. "They wouldn't let journalists or aid workers spend the night in the refugee camps. It was too risky." After this kidnapping, "the security is going to be 10 times worse. All the fear will come back," says Fred. He suspects the security concerns will make aid work untenable.

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