Spanish quake evacuees queue in sun for food, tents

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Earthquake refugees lined up in the hot sun Thursday for food packs and shelter after fleeing their homes in southern Spain when a deadly 5.1-magnitude quake tore through their homes.

In the main market place of the historic city of Lorca, hundreds of people waited in line for food packets containing powder for rehydration drinks, packets of jam, cereal bars and water.

Many carried plastic bags and suitcases stuffed with possessions they managed to grab when a 5.1-magnitude quake struck Lorca Wednesday.

Some accompanied children in pushchairs.

The tremor tore down walls and even flattened some buildings, killing nine people including a child.

Fearing aftershocks, a huge proportion of the more than 90,000 residents of Lorca were forced to wrap themselves in blankets and seek shelter in public squares, playgrounds, cars and neigbouring towns.

Red Cross and army personnel pitched tents to provide shelter and save them from a second night in the open.

Six 20-person army tents and another 13 Red Cross tents were set up in the square and were admitting evacuees including whole families. More army tents were ready to be erected.

Red Cross official Jose Miguel Rebollo said the plan was to set up three tent sites together with the army to shelter 2,500 people. "Tonight we hope there will be fewer people than last night," he said.

Norma Selina, 52, an Ecuadorian who has spent seven years in Spain and has a 12-year-old son, said she was hoping for better accommodation as she sat on a white plastic chair with their belongings in plastic bags and a case.

"We spent last night here in the square but I could not sleep. My son slept a little on the ground. The organization here is very slow; I don't know if we will have to spend another night here," she said.

Streets were littered with crumbled buildings, chunks of masonry and fallen terraces.

Outside the Burger King on the Avenida Juan Carlos 1 shopping street three cars were completely crushed by falling rubble.

The Red Cross has distributed 7,720 blankets, along with food and water, said Carla Vera, spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Spain.

She said the organisation had set up more than 800 small foldable beds in a hangar on the edge of town.

But "many people prefer to sleep outside, near their homes or because they are afraid of aftershocks."

One group of four evacuees sat in fold-up chairs in the early hours of Thursday, unable to sleep. As they escaped their damaged building they had seen the corpses of three people outside killed by falling bricks.

"I was scared to death," said one elderly woman who declined to give her name.

Others lay on the ground under blankets, struggling to fall asleep.

"No one expected such a strong earthquake here," said Francisco Hernandez, 47 and unemployed, as he sat wrapped in a blanket in a parking lot. "Now they're afraid of it happening again."

© 2011 AFP

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