Thursday, May 12, 2011

Too scared to sleep inside: Thousands spend night on the streets amid fear of aftershocks from quakes that left eight dead in southern Spain

Two earthquakes struck south-east Spain in quick succession yesterday, killing at least eight people, injuring hundreds and causing major damage to buildings, officials said.

The highest quake-related death toll in Spain in more than 50 years occurred when the quakes - with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 - struck close to the town of Lorca, with the second about two hours after the first.

Reports suggested that those who died were struck by falling debris in the streets after fleeing their houses, which they feared might collapse.

Dozens of injured people were treated at the scene and a field hospital was set up in the town of about 85,000 people, officials said. Reports suggest around 260 people were injured and some remain in a critical condition.

And fearing that aftershocks might cause further damage to many buildings, up to 20,000 locals slept in the open air last night.

The Spanish prime minister's office initially put the death toll at 10, before revising it down, and the Murcia administration said the deaths included a minor and occurred with the second, stronger quake.

Large chunks of stone and brick fell from the facade of a church in Lorca as a reporter for Spanish state TV was broadcasting live from the scene.

Among the rubble was a large church bell, which missed striking the reporter who appeared to be about 30 feet away when it fell.

The broadcaster reported that schoolchildren usually gather at that spot around that time, and if it had happened 10 minutes later, a 'tragedy' could have occurred. Read More