The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.2.

 

At least three people died and more than 290 were injured, 15 seriously, Xinhua reported.

 

"The dead included a 4-year-old boy who was sleeping with his mother when the earth-built walls of their house collapsed in the quake and buried him and half of the body of his mother," Xinhua said.

 

"The mother was rescued but the boy was killed."


Cracked windows
 

"I tried to get up but the tremor was too strong. It cracked the window panes," one Pu'er office worker said.

 

The Pu'erh city government had allocated $131,000 in relief aid.

 

The earthquake caused several houses to collapse and damaged the communications network in the area, making it difficult for residents to make phone calls, Xinhua reported.

 

Roads, water and power supplies were also affected.

 

The evacuation of 120,000 residents was ordered after many buildings were deemed to be unsafe, Ma said.

 

He said the seismological bureau was among many offices and homes in the area where walls had cracked.

 

Rescue teams with thousands of tents, quilts and other relief supplies were rushing to the area, Xinhua reported.

 

Pu'er City is in southwest Yunnan province which shares borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

 

Ning'er county, covering an area of 3,670 square kilometres, has a population of 190,000.

 

It has been famous for centuries as a tea-growing area and was an important stop on a trade route that ran up and down western China between central Asia and southeastern Asia.

 

The area is prone to strong earthquakes, with 20 temblors above magnitude 5.0 hitting the area since 1990, Xinhua said.