Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Seven die in Spanish earthquakes

A boy holds a puppy while people run moments after an earthquake hit the southern Spanish village of Lorca (AP)
A boy holds a puppy while people run moments after an earthquake hit the southern Spanish village of Lorca (AP)
Two men react after an earthquake struck Lorca, Spain (AP)
A firefighter looks under the rubble in Lorca, Spain (AP)

Two earthquakes have struck southern Spain in quick succession, killing at least seven people, injuring dozens of others and causing major damage to buildings, officials said.

The epicentre of the quakes - with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 - was close to the town of Lorca, and the second came about two hours after the first, an official with the Murcia regional government said.

The Murcia regional government said a hospital in Lorca was being evacuated, dozens of injured people were being treated at the scene and a field hospital was being set up.

It said the seven deaths included a child and occurred with the second, stronger quake.

Large chunks of stone and brick fell from the facade of a church in Lorca as Spanish state TV was broadcasting live from the scene. A large church bell was also among the rubble. 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.

Spanish TV showed images of cars that were partially crushed by falling rubble, and large cracks in buildings.

John Bellini, a seismologist with the US Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Centre in Golden, Colorado, said the larger earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.3 and struck 220 miles south-southeast of Madrid.

The quake was about 6 miles deep, and was preceded by the smaller one, Mr Bellini said. He classified the bigger quake as moderate and said it could cause structural damage to older buildings and masonry.

The quakes occurred in a seismically active area near a large fault beneath the Mediterranean Sea where the European and African continents brush past each other, USGS seismologist Julie Dutton said.

The USGS said it has recorded hundreds of small quakes in the area since 1990.

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