Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Peru are working around the clock to locate 150 Israeli backpackers following a devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake Wednesday night that left more than 450 people dead and at least 1,500 injured.

Rabbi Ofer and Yael Kripor, co-directors of the Chabad House in Cuzco, Peru, a mountainous region in the country's southeast, received a list from the Israeli embassy in Lima, an 18-hour drive away, of backpackers who had not called home. The rabbi has been checking in with hotels and hostels, while his wife works the phones.

According to Yael Kripor, many Israelis come to Peru after their army service for either their first or last stop in trekking across South America. Most on their way out are usually gone by mid-August; the next wave normally doesn't arrive until around Rosh Hashanah.

"Now everything is relatively empty," reported Kripor. "If this earthquake had hit a couple of months ago, G‑d forbid, hundreds of Israelis could have been hurt."

The quake struck along Peru's coast early Wednesday evening, shaking buildings in downtown Lima, the capital, and sending residents scurrying into the streets for safety. After the rubble cleared, Peruvian president Alan Garcia declared a state of emergency and announced that the Ica region of the country – a coastal area popular with Israelis who like to ski on its sand dunes – suffered the brunt of the damage.

With news reports describing sheet-covered bodies lining Peru's streets, Kripor said that parents in Israel are "very hysterical" about their children's whereabouts.

According to Walid Manzoor, Israel's ambassador to Peru, no Israelis are known to have been hurt in the capital.

"We checked the hostels and did not identify, as of yet, injured Israelies," said the ambassador. "All [diplomatic personnel] are safe and sound."

Schneur Feigan, a regular of the Chabad House in Lima, told Yediot Ahronot's Web site that the noise from the earthquake was horrendous. He was staying in one of the city's hostels that cater to Israelis when the quake struck.

"We sat on the porch and suddenly felt strong shakings," said Feigan. "The hostel really shook. We heard screaming from the building across the street and then everyone started running downstairs.

"We went out to the street," he added. "The road was full of people who fled their buildings."

Sterna Sara Blumfeld, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Peru, said her family escaped yesterday's devastating earthquake relatively unscathed. She told a morning news reporter from Israel's Channel 2 that all of the glass windows in her Lima house exploded.

When asked of her own safety, Kripor responded simply, "Thank G‑d. Thank G‑d." It's not the first time she and her husband have escaped danger: Two years ago, they were in Delhi, India when an earthquake struck the countryside. Then, as now, they felt the quake but were otherwise unaffected.

Still, they haven't heard from Ofer Kripor's mother recently. She was to travel home to Israel on Wednesday and called immediately after the earthquake hysterical, but safe. She hasn't called since, but the Kripors are assuming that she made it to Miami or is otherwise in Lima's airport.