Two earthquakes hit Spain's southeastern region of Murcia yesterday, killing at least 10 people in the town of Lorca, the government said.
A 4.4 magnitude earthquake was followed by a 5.2 magnitude temblor, the prime minister's office said in a statement on its website. The quakes in the town on the Mediterranean coast also caused a "large amount" of damage to property, according to the statement.
Spain hasn't suffered a fatal earthquake since 1969, and yesterday's events were the deadliest since 1956, state newswire Efe reported. Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba will visit the affected area today, the government said.
The Defense Ministry sent 200 members of its military emergency unit to the area, including a search-and-rescue team, the government said.
Spanish television showed images of cars crushed under debris and chunks of stone fell from the facade of the church in Lorca, the Associated Press reported.
A field hospital was set up in the town of more than 85,000 people as officials evacuated about 270 patients from a hospital after the building was damaged during the quakes, AP said.
The temblors occurred within two hours of each other, the second at 6:47 p.m. Spanish time yesterday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Their epicenters were near Lorca, about 350 kilometers (218 miles) south, southeast of the capital, Madrid, AP said, citing John Bellini, a seismologist with the USGS.
Many residents spent the night camped out in parks and other areas away from buildings, AP reported.
More than 24,000 people were killed or left missing after Japan was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11. New Zealand's southern city of Christchurch was hit by earthquakes in September and February. The 6.3- magnitude temblor in February killed more than 170 people.