367 Killed As Magnitude 6.1 Earthquake Hits China’s Yunnan Promise

More than 367 people are dead and almost 2000 have been injured in a strong earthquake which hit China’s mountainous southwest, bringing homes crashing to the ground and sparking a massive relief operation.

The quake, which struck in the Zhaotong prefecture of provincial Yunnan on Sunday, toppled buildings and left rescue teams and residents to pull survivors from beneath rubble, images on social media show.

“At least 367 people have been killed and 1881 people were injured,” the official news agency Xinhua reported early on Monday, citing rescuers and raising a previous toll given minutes earlier of 357.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported the quake at a magnitude of 6.1 and said it struck at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres at 4.30pm.

“Too many buildings were damaged and we are collecting data on deaths and injuries,” Xinhua quoted local official Chen Guoyong as saying in the township of Longtoushan, which sits at the epicentre.

State television broadcast footage of people running from homes and gathering in the streets, as witnesses described the devastation on social networks.

“The walls of several buildings crumbled, and water pipes were ruptured. The electricity was cut off,” wrote a user in Ludian county, 23km from the epicentre, on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The user’s message was accompanied by images of cracked walls and a pile of bricks strewn across the road.

Another 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.”

The county was the worst hit, with 122 residents killed, more than 180 missing and 1300 injured. At least another 53 deaths were recorded in neighbouring districts.

Electricity and telecommunications have been cut across the area.

Ludian has a population of nearly 266,000 and sits more than 300km from the provincial capital of Kunming.

State media announced that 2500 troops had been dispatched to quake-hit areas late on Sunday, joining a team of more than 300 police and firefighters from Zhaotong City, the capital of the prefecture.

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

The province also sent 392 rescuers and sniffer dogs to aid the relief operation.

A second quake of 4.1 magnitude was registered just two-and-a-half hours later, 18km south of Zhaotong City.

Heavy rain in the vicinity may pose challenges to rescuers, with more downpours forecast in the coming week.