A strong earthquake hit the Portuguese mid-Atlantic Azores islands yesterday, killing 10 people and injuring around 90, civil protection officials said.
The Prime Minister, Mr Antonio Guterres, departed for the hardest-hit island, Faial, to inspect damage as the central government sent in doctors, nurses, medical supplies, and sniffer dogs to help find people buried under the rubble of their homes. An air force C-130 plane carried tents for some 1,000 homeless, almost a tenth of the population of Faial.
Rescue workers said they feared more people could be buried under the rubble as the quake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, struck when residents were asleep around 5 a.m. (0400 GMT).
They pulled several corpses from beneath collapsed homes yesterday morning, including three people in one house in the Ribeirinha district of Faial.
Yesterday's quake hit hardest on the neighbouring islands of Faial and Pico, civil protection officials said. It was also felt in the islands of Terceira, Corvo and Sao Jorge. Officials said they feared after-shocks.
On Sao Miguel island in the Azores, Mr Carlos Cesar, president of the regional autonomous government of the archipelago, said firemen, police and public health services were being mobilised to deal with the crisis. He later flew to Faial.
Sao Miguel, the biggest island of the Azores which is far from Faial, was not believed to have suffered damage. The epicentre of the quake was in the sea between Faial and Pico islands, about nine miles northwest of Horta.
Radio reports said several roads were blocked on Faial and telephone communications to the island were briefly disrupted.
PA adds: British tourists holidaying on the Azores were yesterday reported to be safe and happy to continue their holidays.
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