Spain mourns earthquake victims

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The Independent Online

Spain's crown prince and princess have attended a funeral mass for the nine people killed in the country's deadliest earthquakes in more than 50 years.

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia hugged relatives and shook their hands as they slowly made their way along a long row of mourners in the town of Lorca.

They bent down to chat with the mourners at the Mass celebrated in a trade centre, part of which has been turned into a makeshift refugee camp after two quakes on Wednesday left many homeless.

Another of those at the Mass was Teresa Corbalan, 65, who lost a cousin in the second of the two tremors. Pedro Jose Rubio Corbalan, 73, was in a bar playing dominoes when the second, larger quake hit. He was struck in the head by falling concrete as he tried to run outside.

"The family is destroyed," Corbalan said.

Also attending the Mass was Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who earlier toured the ravaged town for a first hand look at widespread damage that forced an estimated 3,000 people to spend another night sleeping in tents.

Zapatero visited the area hardest hit by the quakes, which also injured nearly 300, and pledged the government will help the city rebuild and return to normal as soon as possible.

"It is my conviction that we are going to meet this test," he said afterward. "The earthquake was hard and strong. But this country is stronger. Its desire for solidarity and reconstruction are stronger."

The Spanish Cabinet was to approve aid for people who lost their homes or businesses at a meeting later.

At the funeral Mass, there were only four coffins in part because some of the families of the deceased wanted private funerals, town hall and regional officials said.

Lorca's mayor has said that of around 550 buildings inspected so far by engineers and architects, more than half are uninhabitable.

Lorca is a town of some 90,000 that lives off agriculture.