Grieving Spain mourns Lorca earthquake victims

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Media captionCrown Prince Felipe consoles the bereaved before the funeral Mass in Lorca

The earthquake-stricken Spanish town of Lorca has held a funeral Mass for victims of Wednesday's disaster.

Nine people were killed when a magnitude-5.1 quake struck the town, just two hours after one measuring 4.4.

Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Crown Prince Felipe and his wife were among hundreds attending the Mass in a large hangar-like structure.

Thousands of buildings in the historic town have been damaged or destroyed and many residents have left.

Mayor Francisco Jodar said 80% of buildings in Lorca - a town of 93,000 - suffered some damage.

Some have gone to stay with friends and family in other areas, because their homes are unsafe or they fear aftershocks.

Troops and emergency workers have put up tents for thousands of homeless people still in Lorca.

As the funeral Mass began, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia consoled grieving mourners. Hundreds attended the service.

The Mass was said for all nine victims in front of four coffins. Among those who died were a 13-year-old boy and a 22-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant.

'Solidarity and reconstruction'

Other funerals were being held elsewhere in Lorca.

Earlier, Mr Zapatero toured the worst affected area of the town.

"It is my conviction that we are going to meet this test," he said.

"This earthquake has hit hard, it's been strong, it's made a huge impact. But our country is stronger. Our will and solidarity and our commitment to rebuild, are stronger."

Inspection teams are going house to house assessing the damage before declaring which buildings are safe to return to. Some are so badly damaged that they will have to be demolished.

On Thursday some residents were briefly allowed back into their homes to salvage what belongings they could from the rubble. Spanish TV pictures showed many in tears.

Shops, restaurants and schools have been closed and a stream of cars has left the town, which is in the Murcia region of southern Spain.

Bulldozers have been clearing streets of rubble and crushed cars. Many ancient buildings were among those badly damaged.

A large number of the residents left behind are immigrant labourers who have nowhere else to go.

The Spanish government has deployed about 800 personnel to the town, including emergency units, troops and police, Mr Zapatero said.

Seismologists say they expect smaller aftershocks in the area, which lies close to the geological fault line separating Europe and Africa.

The quakes were shallow and caused significant damage despite being relatively low in magnitude. The region's sandy soil also made the impact worse.

Many of the town's buildings may have had pre-existing structural problems, said Luis Suarez, head of Spain's College of Geologists.

The quake was the deadliest tremor to hit Spain since 1956 when an earthquake killed 11 people in Albolote, Granada.

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