TWO further earthquakes in the Alborán sea between Morocco and southern Spain have caused houses to collapse in Melilla and left 26 people injured.
The quakes were felt in the provinces of Granada, Málaga, Sevilla and Jaén and the full impact was felt in the Spanish-owned city-province of Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast, close to the Algerian border.
According to the National Geographical Institute (IGN), the first tremor measured 3.2 on the Richter scale and came at 03.14hrs this morning (Monday), and the second, at 04.22hrs, reached 6.3 on the scale.
A number of aftershocks followed, with the worst measuring 4.5 and striking at 04.34hrs.
None of the injured parties are said to be in a serious condition – most were treated for cuts from shattering windows and tiles, bruises from having fallen on stairs as the earth moved, or panic attacks.
In Andalucía, hundreds of residents rushed out into the street, fearing their homes would collapse on top of them.
Schools are shut across Melilla until the buildings can be inspected for safety, but water and electricity supplies have not been affected.
Despite the magnitude of the main quake at 04.22hrs, the fact it was 10 kilometres below the surface means the damage was not as great as seen in Lorca (Murcia) in May 2011, when a tremor of 5.3 left 11 people dead and reduced the city to rubble – the worst in Spain's history.
The epicentre of this morning's earthquakes was 62 kilometres from the island of Alhucemas, about halfway between Tangiers and Melilla and a few hundred metres from the Moroccan coast.
Residents in Melilla say the tremor went on for 50 seconds, becoming gradually more violent, and causing 'a lot of very loud noise'.
Chunks of buildings falling off mean many residents in Melilla are too frightened to go back into their houses, and have kept the fire brigade working around the clock.
Hundreds of locals were gathered on the street in their pyjamas waiting for news.
They have already received over 600 call-outs, and the 112 emergency hotline is said to be ringing off the hook.
This latest series of quakes comes just four days after a tremor of 4.9, with its epicentre in the same area, struck in the Alborán sea, followed by an aftershock of 3.0.
In this case, the movement was felt in Melilla and the provinces of Sevilla, Málaga, Jaén and Granada, but no damage was caused aside from a few cracks in buildings, and the rendering of an already-condemned block of apartments crumbling away.
Regional and central government officials have planned visits to the affected areas and set up a crisis committee to help those who have suffered property damage, and advise worried residents on what to do if another quake strikes.