Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Two earthquakes struck southeastern Spain in quick succession Wednesday, killing at least seven people, injuring dozens and causing major damage to buildings, officials said.
The epicenter of the quakes — with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 — was close to the town of Lorca, an official with the Murcia regional government said on condition of anonymity because of department policy. The second came about two hours after the first,
The prime minister's office put the death toll at seven. It did not say how many people were injured.
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.
Spanish state TV showed large chunks of stone and brick falling from the facade of a church in Lorca. A large church bell was among the rubble. The broadcaster said that if it had happened 10 minutes later, a "tragedy" could have occurred because schoolchildren usually gather at that spot around that time.
Spanish TV showed images of cars that were partially crushed by falling rubble and large cracks in buildings.
"I felt a tremendously strong movement, followed by a lot of noise, and I was really frightened," the newspaper El Pais quoted Lorca resident Juani Avellanada as saying.
Juana Ruiz told the paper her house split open with the quake and "all the furniture fell over."
John Bellini, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., 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, 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.