Scores killed in China earthquakes

At least 89 people killed and 20,000 homes damaged in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, state media said.

At least 89 people have been killed and 20,000 homes damaged by a series of earthquakes, one measuring 5.7 in magnitude, in southwestern China.

The largest of the quakes struck the border between Yunnan and Guizhou provinces at about 11:00am local time (03:00 GMT) on Friday. The state-run Xinhua news agency said the earthquake hit the border area of Yiliang county of Yunnan and Weining county of Guizhou.

By mid-afternoon, authorities had moved more than 100,000 from the area as a series of more than 60 aftershocks struck.

Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, visited an affected area on Saturday and met some of the evacuees. 

The earthquakes hit Yunnan and Guizhou provinces [Al Jazeera]

Zhang Junwei, a spokesperson from the Yunnan seismological bureau, said that the deaths all occurred in Yiliang, and that another 150 people were hurt.

The main quake, which occurred at a depth of 14km, was followed by a series of aftershocks, the China Earthquake Networks Centre said. The earthquake was also felt in neighbouring Sichuan province.

Xinhua said the provincial government had sent work teams to the quake-hit area and the civil affairs department was shipping thousands of tents, blankets and coats to the area.

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Hong Kong, said that the military had been deployed to conduct search and rescue operations in the area.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the largest quake at 5.6 and said it struck at a depth of 10km.

Buildings damaged

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed boulder-covered roadways, abandoned cars and black smoke pouring from buildings.

“The hardest part of the rescue now is traffic. Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb the mountains to reach hard-hit villages,” Xinhua quoted Li Fuchun, an official from Luozehe, the town at the epicentre of the quake, as saying.

The death toll may rise as rescuers reach villages cut off by landslides, the news agency said.

Local residents described how people ran out of buildings screaming as the quake hit.

“I was walking on the street when I suddenly felt the ground shaking beneath me. People started rushing outside screaming, it still scares me to think of it now,” posted one on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter.

Photographs posted online showed streets strewn with rocks and bricks from damaged buildings.

Mobile phone services were down and regular phone lines disrupted in the area.

Xinhua said that so far no casualties had been reported in Guizhou, but that homes had been damaged or destroyed there.

“This is a very agricultural, rural area of southwestern China [and it is] also very mountainous and hilly,” reported Al Jazeera’s Ortigas. “The buildings in those areas and the construction is known to be quite poor.”

Southwestern China is prone to earthquakes. In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude tremor hit Sichuan province and parts of neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, killing tens of thousands of people and flattening many areas.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies