Powerful quake kills 64 in China
At least 64 people were killed and 550 injured yesterday when two quakes struck a remote and mountainous area of southwest China, toppling buildings and pushing panicked crowds into the streets, officials and observers said.
Residents described how people ran out of buildings screaming as the two quakes hit on the border of southwestern Yunnan and Guizhou provinces an hour apart around the middle of the day followed by a string of aftershocks.
The Xinhua news agency said 64 people had been killed and rescuers have rushed to the area. Authorities are sending thousands of tents, quilts and coats, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is also heading to the area, it said.
Most of the victims were from Yiliang county, Yunnan province, near the epicentre of the quakes, which struck at a depth of about 9 km according to the US Geological Survey.
By mid-afternoon, authorities had moved more than 100,000 from the area as a series of aftershocks struck. No deaths were reported in Guizhou province.
A government statement also said 100,000 people were made homeless by the disaster, and at least 20,000 houses collapsed or were damaged. Altogether 700,000 people have been affected, it said.
Television footage showed people running from damaged buildings and streets strewn with fallen bricks and rocks in Yunnan province's Yiliang district, which appeared to be worst hit.
The death toll could still rise as some villages remain blocked by landslides and the worst-hit areas may have lost power and communications, Xinhua said, citing local officials.
Rocks as tall as four meters crashed into mountain roads and landslides are hampering the rescue operation, the report said.
Southwest China is prone to earthquakes. In 2008, about 87,600 people were killed in the south-western province of Sichuan when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. Many of the victims died in the rubble of homes and schools built without adequate steel reinforcement.
A 6.9 magnitude earthquake in April 2010 killed nearly 3,000 people in a remote part of western Qinghai province, devastating much of Yushu county, where many displaced by the disaster still live in tents.
Quakes with an epicentre less than 70 km below the surface are considered shallow and can cause significant damage, even at lower magnitudes.