Scores killed by China earthquakes


Two shallow 5.6 magnitude earthquakes hit mountainous south-western China today, killing at least 64 people and forcing tens of thousands from damaged buildings, state media said.

The quakes struck near the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, the first one at 11.19 am (4.19 am Irish time) and the second one about 45 minutes later, the US Geological Survey said.

About 700 people were injured and 20,000 homes damaged in the remote mountainous region about 350 km from the Yunnan provincial capital Kunming, the official Xinhua news agency said.

As the number of dead climbed throughout the day, state media reported that premier Wen Jiabao would travel to the area, as he has often done when disasters strike Chinese regions.

President Hu Jintao called for disaster relief to be dispatched to the area while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

Most of the victims were from Yiliang county in Yunnan, near the epicentre of the quakes, which struck at a depth of about 9 km, according to the USGS.

By mid-afternoon, authorities had moved more than 100,000 from the area as a series of more than 60 aftershocks struck. No deaths were reported in Guizhou province.

Calls to police stations and hospitals in Yiliang went unanswered, but a worker at No. 2 Renmin Hospital in Zhaotong city said medical staff were busy treating the injured.

"We have admitted injured people, but don't have an overall number yet, and we can't comment without government approval," he told Reuters, declining to give his name.

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