A 5.8 magnitude earthquake has hit a remote part of southwest China near the popular tourist area of Shangri-La, killing five people and injuring 24 more, state media said.

The earthquake in Yunnan province on the border with Sichuan province on Saturday sparked landslides, blocked roads, trapped tourist buses, cut off communications and toppled or damaged tens of thousands of homes in the mountainous area.

The driver of a tourist bus died and three tourists were injured as falling rocks smashed into the vehicle, said the official Xinhua news agency.

Three other tourist buses were trapped by landslides triggered by the quake and aftershocks, Xinhua said.

In total, the news agency said 24 people including seven tourists were injured. It did not reveal the nationality of the wounded tourists.

The quake, which struck at 8:04 am (00:04 GMT), was centred on Yunnan's Benzilan town, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. It was about 10km deep.

'Relatively severe'

The quake toppled 600 homes and damaged more than 55,000 others, forcing over 9,000 local residents to relocate, Xinhua said.

Photos posted online showed soldiers helping to evacuate an injured woman, and damaged vehicles.

State television showed clouds of dust rising from landslides on green mountains, and pieces of broken cement that had fallen from buildings.

"During the earthquake this morning, the swaying the county felt was relatively severe," Xinhua quoted Liao Wencai, deputy party secretary of Deqin county, as saying.

Benzilan is in Deqin county, roughly 60km from Shangri-La county, which is named after the fictional mountain paradise in the James Hilton novel "Lost Horizon."

Local officials borrowed the name to attract more tourists to the area, which hosted around 7.6 million travellers last year.

Shangri-La itself was little affected, residents said.

"The building just shook a little bit and returned to normal fairly fast," an employee at a local hotel told AFP. "Our business wasn't impacted since the quake-stricken area is outside of town."

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said it was sending tents, bedding and clothing to more directly affected areas.

Source: Agencies