Two earthquakes have struck southern Spain in quick succession, killing at least ten people, injuring dozens of others and causing major damage to buildings, officials said.
According to the Press Association, the epicentre of the quakes - with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 - was close to the town of Lorca. They struck within two hours of each other, an official with the Murcia regional government said.
The Murcia regional government said a hospital in Lorca was being evacuated, dozens of injured people were being treated at the scene and a field hospital was being set up.
It said the deaths included a child and occurred with the second, stronger quake, which was a forceful 5.2, hitting the town of Lorca, killing at least four people and toppling several buildings. It was felt from Alicante to Malaga and as far away as Madrid.
Residents in the town, which has a population of around 90,000, described the terrifying moments when the quake struck.
'There was a tremendous roar and the church was split in half,' Catalina Lopez, told Spanish state television.
John Bellini, a seismologist with the US Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Centre in Golden, Colorado, said the larger earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.3 and struck 220 miles south-southeast of Madrid.
The quake was about six miles deep, and was preceded by the smaller one, Mr Bellini said. He classified the bigger quake as moderate and said it could cause structural damage to older buildings and masonry.Lorca Mayor Francisco Jodar told local radio the deaths were caused by falling debris and building cave-ins.
Meanwhile in Rome, one in five residents did not go into work and many children were kept off school on Wednesday following the 1915 prediction of Raffaele Bendani, a seismologist, that the 'big one' would strike on May 11, 2011.
Thousands flee Rome amid 'prophet-predicted' earthquake fears