MADRID - Two earthquakes struck southeast Spain in quick succession Wednesday, killing at least 10, injuring dozens and causing major damage to buildings, officials said. It was the highest quake-related death toll in Spain in more than 50 years.
The epicenter of the quakes - with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 - was close to the town of Lorca, and the second came about two hours after the first.
Dozens of injured were treated at the scene and a field hospital was set up in the town of about 85,000 people, officials said. About 270 patients at a hospital in Lorca were evacuated by ambulance as a precaution after the building sustained minor damage, the Murcia regional government said. The Spanish prime minister's office put the death toll at 10, and the Murcia administration said the deaths occurred with the second, stronger quake.
It was the deadliest quake in Spain since 1956, when 12 died and about 70 were injured in a quake in the southern Granada region, according to the National Geographic Institute. It says Spain has about 2,500 quakes a year, but only a handful are actually noticed by people.
The U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., had slightly different magnitudes for the temblors. Seismologist John Bellini said the larger earthquake had a preliminary 5.3 magnitude and struck 220 miles south-southeast of Madrid at 6:47 p.m. (12:47 p.m. EDT). The quake was about 6 miles deep, and was preceded by the smaller one with a 4.5 magnitude in the same spot. Bellini classified the bigger quake as moderate and said it could cause structural damage to older buildings and masonry.
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The Italian capital was gripped by a psychosis over a purported prediction by a now-dead seismologist that a devastating temblor would strike the city on Wednesday. By late afternoon, about 30 earthquakes had struck Italy, as is normal for the quake-prone country, but none in the Lazio region that includes Rome.