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Earthquake strikes Spain, killing at least eight people

By Ruth Hendry - 12 May 2011 20:5:0 GMT
Earthquake strikes Spain, killing at least eight people

At least eight people have died and 260 are injured after Spain's worst earthquake in 50 years. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck the southern Spanish town of Lorca on Wednesday evening, just two hours after a magnitude 4.5 tremor.

Thousands of residents slept on the street overnight, unable to return home and fearing further tremors. Many residents are waiting for building inspectors to allow them to re-enter their homes.

In a dramatic scene, replayed many times on Spanish television, stones and bricks fell from the bell tower of San Diego church in the town centre. Spanish state TV, broadcasting live, captured the church bell crashing down, narrowly missing the reporter.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has called an urgent meeting to discuss the situation. On Spanish television he said ''We've activated all aid measures with maximum speed'' and pledged to rebuild the town as quickly as possible.

The region's government estimates that 80% of buildings in Lorca have been damaged. Food distribution points have been set up, along with temporary accommodation for those made homeless. Hundreds of people are said to have queued for food aid amidst the rubble.

Although the south of Spain sits on several faultlines, earthquakes causing fatalities are rare in Spain. Normally, earthquakes strike at a depth of between six and twelve miles, meaning that shocks are dispersed below the earth's surface. The epicentre of the earthquake which struck Lorca was less than one mile deep, leading to large tremors and extensive damage.

Roger Musson, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey, told The Guardian that the town had been unlucky as the earthquake was unusually shallow: ''It's only really caused such damage because it was so shallow and the epicentre was so close to the town of Lorca. A magnitude 5.2 is not that big - it's not considered a large quake.''

Although the United States Geological Survey initially reported slightly different magnitudes and a deeper quake depth, it has since updated the numbers to coincide with Spain's National Geographic Institute: a magnitude of 5.1 and a depth of just 0.6 miles.