Spanish town assesses earthquake damage

07:57, May 13, 2011      

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View of buildings crashed by debris in Lorca, southeastern Spain on May 12, 2011. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Lorca in southeastern Spain on Thursday was assessing the damage of two earthquakes which shook the town Wednesday.

Two quakes of 4.4 and 5.1 magnitude on the Richter scale hit Lorca at 17:03 and 18:47 local time. The second quake, which lasted for just four seconds, was the strongest quake to hit Spain in the past 50 years, and has left eight people dead, most of whom were in two houses that collapsed in the center of the town. Two of the victims were pregnant women.

More than 400 were injured in the earthquakes, with 167 of them taken to the town's Virgin de Arrixaca hospital.

Several historic buildings were badly damaged in the quakes and Spanish TVE TV broadcast footage showing the bell tower of one church fell to the ground in the second quake.

The National Geographical Institute registered 29 aftershocks with the most powerful reaching 4.0 magnitude.

The quakes left the inhabitants of Lorca in panic and between 20,000 and 30,000 people spent Wednesday night sleeping outdoors because of the fear of aftershocks.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ordered an immediate dispatch of the Military Emergency Unit to Lorca and 200 troops have already arrived in the quake-hit town with water tanks and a field kitchen.

Zapatero said the country would have full emergency measures in place to help fund post-quake rebuilding work, adding that no expense would be spared in aiding the reconstruction of Lorca.

A team of architects will begin to evaluate structural damage in Lorca's buildings on Thursday, while operations are also underway to ensure there is a sufficient supply of food, given that several of the town's supermarkets were also damaged.

Schools in Lorca will remain closed Thursday and they too will be inspected for possible structural damage.

Spain's politicians have reached an agreement to suspend all of Thursday's events in the Regional and Local Election campaign, ahead of the May 22 elections, while Vice President Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and Defense Minister Carme Chacon will visit Lorca on Thursday.

Spain suffers an estimated 2,500 earth movements each year, although on average only two a month are strong enough to be felt by the population.

Source: Xinhua

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