"I saw children with head wounds buried in the rubble"

Lorca residents fear more aftershocks following Wednesday's devastating quakes

"We are so scared that another earthquake is going to hit." Paloma Sanz's statement sums up how other residents in Lorca, Murcia are feeling after their lives were jolted Wednesday afternoon by the two powerful earthquakes that caused widespread damage, claimed the lives of nine people and injured around 300 more.

Residents of this town of 92,000 ran out into the streets when the first quake - a 4.5-magnitude tremor - hit at 5.05pm. Many are yet to return to their homes fearing their dwellings could collapse. Geologists, however, say that it is very rare for an aftershock to be stronger than the intitial earthquake event.

Thousands spent the night sleeping in cold, damp parks while the army geared up on Thursday to provide emergency shelters with cots and kitchens to accommodate 3,000 people.

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Doctors and nurses worked around the clock to help treat the injured. "We have an emergency situation here," said one nurse at the Virgen del Alcazár Hospital in a telephone interview. "We don't even have time to talk to each other."

The Red Cross and the Catholic charity Caritas have both mobilized volunteers to the area.

Debris from collapsed buildings fell into the streets and onto parked automobiles, leaving many thoroughfares covered with heavy chunks of brick and stone that made it difficult for emergency teams to reach some areas of the city.

By the time the second, more powerful 5.2-magnitude quake hit at 6.47pm, some reporters were already out on the streets. A TVE camera caught the moment when the bell tower of the San Diego de Lorca Church crumbled and nearly collapsed on top of the news reporter who was making a live report.

Antonio García Delicado helped pull a woman and two of her children from the rubble of an apartment building that succumbed when the second quake hit. "I didn't know where to stick my hands to try to pull them out," García Delicado said. "I saw that the children had head injuries and their hands were bleeding, but thank God I was able to get them out."

Those who were killed in the quake included a 22-year-old pregnant woman, a 14-year-old child, a 71-year-old man and two women aged 51 and 52. A funeral for the nine people who died will be held on Friday. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia are expected to attend.

A man attends to one of the victims of Wednesday's earthquake, which claimed nine lives.
A man attends to one of the victims of Wednesday's earthquake, which claimed nine lives.EFE (ISRAEL SÁNCHEZ)

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