Earthquake in southwest China kills over 350 and injures at least 1,800

Scores injured as thousands of homes are toppled in mountainous area of Yunnan province

A paramilitary policeman carries an elderly man on his back after an earthquake hit Ludian county of Zhaotong, Yunnan province yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/China Daily

A paramilitary policeman carries an elderly man on his back after an earthquake hit Ludian county of Zhaotong, Yunnan province yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/China Daily

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 01:01

A 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern China yesterday, killing at least 367 people and injuring more than 1,800 in a remote, mountainous area, toppling thousands of homes and causing widespread damage.

Many people were still missing after the quake struck the Zhaotong area of Yunnan at 4.30pm local time, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. More than 80 per cent of homes in some villages collapsed in the area, which has a population of 265,900 in its seven townships.

Photographs posted on social media showed troops carrying people on stretchers and devastation throughout the area. Xinhua said some 12,000 houses had collapsed and 30,000 had been damaged, with transportation, electricity and telecommunications in the area cut off. Rescuers were rushing to the scene, it said.

“I felt a strong jolt on my fifth-floor home and some small objects in my home fell off the shelves,” said one resident in the county seat of Ludian.

Another local, who was driving a car when the quake struck, said it felt like “sailing a boat”.

Like a battlefield Ludian resident Ma Liya told Xinhua the streets were like “a battlefield after bombardment”. Her neighbour’s new two-storey house had been toppled and she said it was worse than the quake in September 2012, when a 5.7-magnitude tremor caused more than 80 deaths and injured more than 800 people.

“It’s so terrible. The aftermath is much much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago. I have never felt so strong tremors before. What I can see are all ruins,” she said, adding that calls to her cousin’s family in Longtoushan township, near the epicentre of the quake, were going unanswered.

“I just hope they are safe and sound. They didn’t answer the calls,” she said.

The China Earthquake Administration said in a statement on its website that it expected the tremor to cause “relatively serious destruction”.

Ma Hao, a college student who is volunteering to help with the rescue effort in Longtoushan, told Xinhua he had seen bodies buried in ruins and had helped carry more than 40 injured people out of the collapsed buildings.

“Honestly, it’s such a shame that we had no time to take care of the bodies. We need to help those alive first,” he said.

The Zhaotong area is about 300km from the provincial capital, Kunming, in a finger of Yunnan that is surrounded by Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, which also felt yesterday’s tremor.

The region is prone to tremors – a deadly earthquake in 2008 in Beichuan, in Sichuan, killed nearly 70,000 people.

Shallow depth According to the US Geological Survey

the quake registered at a shallow depth of less than 1.6km.

It’s the biggest tremor in the 390,000sq km province since a 6.5-degree quake hit Yao’an county in January 2000, Xinhua said.The government is sending 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the disaster zone, it added.

In 1974 a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the same place caused more than 1,400 deaths.