Two earthquakes struck southeast Spain almost one after the other, killing at least ten people, injuring dozens and damaging many buildings. MSNBC reports that three people, including a teenager walking his dog, were killed by falling rubble. One woman died when a newly-constructed building collapsed. The quakes, which occurred just two hours apart and had magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.3, occurred close to Lorca, a town of about 91,000 in the municipality of Murcia.
The larger earthquake struck 220 miles south-southeast of Madrid, according to John Bellini, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado. He also said that the quake was about 6 miles deep and that, while moderate, the quake could still cause damage to older structures and masonry.
The quakes occurred in a seismically active area where hundreds of small quakes have occurred since 1990. The area sits near a large fault beneath the Mediterranean Sea where the European and African continents brush past each other. Indeed, MSNBC notes that “earthquakes in southern Spain are a frequent occurrence but most are so slight they cannot be felt and go unnoticed.”
Local authorities fear the death toll may rise as some 150 rescue workers dig through the rubble of fallen structures. El Pais reports that 272 soldiers from Valencia, Seville and Madrid have bee deployed to the area.
The Guardian reports one especially close call:
Large chunks of stone and brick fell from the facade of a church in Lorca as a reporter for Spanish state TV was broadcasting live from the scene. A large church bell was also among the rubble, which missed striking the reporter, who appeared to be about 30 feet (9 metres) away when it fell. The broadcaster reported that schoolchildren usually gathered at that spot around that time and, if it had happened 10 minutes later, a “tragedy” could have occurred.
Here is a video showing the church after the earthquake:
A self-taught seismologist had predicted that a huge earthquake would devastate Rome today. 22 small earthquakes were felt throughout Italy by midday but this is a “perfectly normal” figure for Italy, a country prone to earthquakes, says the Guardian. While thousands of Romans took the prediction of Raffaele Bendandi, who died more than 30 years ago, seriously and many storefronts were shuttered, “Rome’s espresso-drinking, Vespa-driving, hand-waving activities continued as normal.”