13 May 2011

Spain mourns quake victims

10:33 pm on 13 May 2011

Spain has begun two days of mourning for the nine people killed when an earthquake wrecked swathes of the historic southern city of Lorca and forced thousands to flee their homes.

The 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck at 6.47pm local time on Wednesday at a depth of just 10km, nearly two hours after a smaller 4.4-magnitude quake. It is thought to be the country's worst quake for 50 years.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero headed to Lorca on Friday to visit the most devastated areas and join an open-air funeral mass, along with Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia.

The Red Cross said the quake forced some 15,000 of the city's 93,000 inhabitants from their homes. About 130 people have been injured.

Thousands spent their second night away from their houses. But unlike Thursday, when they shivered under blankets outdoors, most were able to sleep in hundreds of tents supplied by the Red Cross and the military, AFP reports.

The Red Cross admitted they still lacked enough fold-up canvas beds for all the homeless, many of them poor immigrants from Latin America and north Africa unable to find alternative lodging.

The quake ripped open walls, toppled roofs and crushed cars under tumbling stones. Mayor Francisco Jodar said 80% of the city's buildings suffered some damage.

The government has sent in 800 military and police, equipped with 140 vehicles to help clear the debris. Emergency workers are checking building by building to decide which can be repaired and which will have to be demolished.

Earthquakes causing extensive damage and fatalities are rare in Spain, although there are extensive faultlines in the south of the country.