Earthquake kills hundreds in southwest China

Earthquake kills at least 381 and injures nearly 2,000 others in Yunnan province.

Last updated: 04 Aug 2014 06:10
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Communications have been seriously affected and rescuers are rushing to the scene [Reuters]

An intense rescue operation is under way in China after an earthquake killed at least 381 people and injured thousands more, leaving scenes of devastation across a mountainous area.

More than 12,000 houses collapsed and 30,000 were damaged in the quake zone in the southwestern province of Yunnan, China's official news agency Xinhua said.

China's deadly earthquakes
July 22, 2013: Twin earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.6 strike the northwestern province of Gansu, killing 95.
April 20, 2013: A 6.6-magnitude earthquake hits the southwestern province of Sichuan, leaving 196 dead and 21 missing.
April 14, 2010: A quake with a magnitude of 6.9 kills about 2,700 people and injures another 12,000 in Qinghai.
May 12, 2008: A 7.9-magnitude quake strikes Sichuan, leaving nearly 87,000 dead or missing. Another 4.45 million are injured in the worst quake disaster to hit China in more than three decades.
July 28, 1976: Tangshan, 200 kilometres east of Beijing, is levelled by an earthquake measuring 7.5. Beijing puts the official death toll at 242,000, with 164,000 seriously injured.
January 5, 1970: A 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Yunnan leaves 15,621 dead.
December 26, 1932: An earthquake measuring 7.6 magnitude kills 70,000 people in Gansu.
May 23, 1927: Forty-one thousand people die in Gansu in an earthquake measuring 7.6.
December 16, 1920: An earthquake in Gansu measuring 7.8 kills 230,000 people.

Soldiers on Monday stretchered the injured away from the scene in the immediate aftermath with residents fleeing as aftershocks hit.

A total of 7,000 emergency personnel, including 5,000 soldiers, police and firefighters had been mobilised, Xinhua said on Monday, and Premier Li Keqiang was heading to the scene.

Rescuers took victims to local hospitals and continued to pick through the rubble of destroyed homes in a desperate search for survivors, AFP news agency reported.

The official Xinhua news agency said the epicentre of Sunday's quake was in Longtoushan town in Yunnan's Ludian county.

Communications have been seriously affected and rescuers are still heading to the scene, the report said.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, reporting from Kunshan, China, said: "This quake has happened in a very very remote area of southwest China.

"The difficulty for rescuers is going to be the time it takes to reach this area."

Pictures posted online by state media showed troops stretchering people away, and bricks which had fallen off buildings damaging cars, Reuters news agency reported. 

Many people rushed out of buildings onto the street after the quake hit, electricity supplies were cut and at least one school collapsed, Xinhua added.

"The problem is a lot of the structures in this area are simply not quake proof. This is a very impoverished region and very remote", our correspondent reported.

The US Geological Survey said the quake registered at shallow depth of less than 1 mile (1.6 km). Chinese state media said the tremors were felt most strongly Yunnan, as well as in the neighbouring provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan.

The government is sending 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the disaster zone, the report said.

Equipment brought to the area included life detection instruments and excavating tools.

Ludian is home to some 265,900 people, Xinhua added. China is frequently struck by quakes in this part of the country. A quake in Sichuan in 2008 killed almost 70,000 people. A quake in the same region in 2012 killed 80 people.

Earlier in the day a less severe quake struck Tibet, causing no casualties.

A Ludian resident described the scene as resembling a "battlefield after bombardment", telling Xinhua: "I have never felt (such) strong tremors before. What I can see are all ruins."


Al Jazeera and agencies
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