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Spain mourns quake victims

by Staff Writers
Lorca, Spain (AFP) May 13, 2011
Sobbing relatives joined a funeral mass in the quake-wrecked Spanish city of Lorca on Friday for four of the nine victims of the tremor who perished in a hail of tumbling masonry and bricks.

Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia held hands, hugged and spoke with the bereaved, many in tears, as about 2,000 people gathered for the service in an open-sided pavilion in the southeastern city.

Four wood coffins were lined up in front of the congregation during the mass before being taken for burial in flower-draped hearses. Families of the other victims preferred to hold private services.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also attended the mass as two days of national mourning began for all five male and four female victims, including a 14-year-old boy and two pregnant women.

Attendants comforted distressed mourners, guiding some out of the emotion-laden service presided over by the bishop of Cartagena, Jose Manuel Lorca Planes.

"It's torment," said one woman as she broke down in tears during the mass and was too overcome to speak any more or give her name.

Her sister, Andrea Navarro, 35, said the family had spent two days in cars and was still anxious after the terror of Wednesday's quake, which damaged their third floor flat.

Marisol Lozano, 54, said she knew the teenage boy who was killed and his family.

"In towns like this, everybody knows everybody. We still can't believe such a disaster happened. It's like we were hit by a bomb. But Lorca is very strong," she said.

The 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck at 6:47 pm (1647 GMT) Wednesday at a depth of just 10 kilometres (six miles), less than two hours after a smaller 4.4-magnitude quake.

Ripping open walls, toppling roofs and crushing cars under stones, the tremor also injured another 130 people, according to emergency services, and forced thousands from their homes.

According to the Red Cross, 15,000 of the historic city's 93,000 inhabitants were evacuated from their homes.

Thousands spent a second night away from home, but unlike the hours following the quake, when they shivered under blankets outdoors, most were able to sleep in hundreds of tents supplied by the Red Cross and the military.

Touring the worst of the devastation before the mass, Zapatero promised that an agreement would be signed in the next days to ensure the reconstruction of Lorca.

"The earthquake was hard, it had a strong impact, but the country is stronger, our determination for solidarity and reconstruction is stronger," he vowed.

The government later announced aid including 18,000 euros ($25,000) to spouses and adult children of those killed or severely disabled, rental for those whose homes were destroyed or condemned, and funds for rebuilding.

The Red Cross admitted it 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.

"We had to treat many who were suffering from the cold as they slept in the open air," said Enrique Garcia, a Red Cross coordinator.

The government said it could provide 3,500 places for the night in four tent camps, and if necessary 1,500 more. Some 800 soldiers and police, equipped with 140 vehicles to help clear the debris, were deployed.

Some 20,000 buildings including many from the 16th and 17th centuries were reported damaged in Lorca, which traces its history back more than 2,000 years.

Most of the bars, restaurants, shops were shut. No traffic was allowed in the hard-hit main Avenida Juan Carlos I, and shops and hotels had closed their doors.

Bulldozers cleared streets filled with stones, bricks, cornices, collapsed terraces and crumpled cars. Emergency workers checked building by building to decide which should be repaired and which condemned.

It was the deadliest earthquake in Spain since April 19, 1956, when a tremor wrecked buildings and killed 11 people in Albolote, a town in the southern Spanish province of Granada.

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Spanish seismologist had predicted a quake "shortly"
Madrid, Spain (AFP) May 12, 2011
A top Spanish seismologist warned of a possible destructive earthquake "shortly," less than three months before Wednesday's killer 5.1-magnitude tremor. Luis Suarez, president of the Official Geological College, said in a February 28 interview that Spain lay in a moderately active seismic zone and was not in a particularly intense period. But a destructive earthquake could hit "shortly, ... read more

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