China quake flattens 18,000 homes, leaves one dead

Emergency officials were evacuating more than 400,000 people after an earthquake hit southwest China, killing one person, injuring hundreds and flattening more than 18,000 homes.

A government relief official in Yao'an county, a mountainous area of picturesque Yunnan province, told AFP that one person had died and 328 had been injured.

The US Geological Survey said the moderate 5.7-magnitude quake struck at 7:19 pm (1119 GMT) Thursday at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) in Yunnan province.

"I was harvesting tobacco leaves... when the quake hit. I felt dizzy and saw villagers falling over. Many houses collapsed," Dong Zhaofu, a farmer in Yao'an county told the Xinhua news agency.

A 50-year-old woman was buried in the debris of collapsed houses and died later in hospital from serious blood loss, Xinhua said, citing local officials.

Map locating the epicentre of a 5.7 magnitude quake that struck in China's Yunnan province

The quake was centred on a relatively sparsely populated area 98 kilometres (61 miles) east-northeast of the city of Dali.

Eight aftershocks followed, driving residents outdoors into the warm night for fear of greater damage, Xinhua said.

More than 18,000 houses collapsed and over 75,000 others were damaged in six counties of Yunnan, with 30 people suffering serious injuries, it said.

Over 1,000 soldiers and police officers, including about 300 from neighboring Sichuan Province, were helping residents to safety, Xinhua said adding that provincial authorities were sending tents, quilts and other aid supplies.

Yunnan governor Qin Guangrong ordered 20 million yuan (2.9 million dollars) be allocated for disaster relief, the agency said, however, emergency officials estimate damage could cost the local economy 2.5 billion yuan, it reported.

Last year in Sichuan, nearly 87,000 people were left dead or missing when a massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook the province in China's mountainous southwest.

The deadliest earthquake to strike China in over 30 years flattened entire cities and towns, destroying schools, hospitals, homes, buildings and factories in nearly 50,000 villages.

Around 7,000 schools collapsed in that quake even as neighbouring buildings stood intact, leading to the death of thousands of children and causing huge anger among grieving parents, who blamed poor construction and official corruption.

Yunnan province, where Thursday night's quake hit lies on China's southern border with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Yao'an county has a population of 207,900 from 23 separate ethnic groups, according to the county government's website.

Its spectacular scenery and ethnic diversity have led China's government to promote the relatively unspoilt region as a tourist destination in recent years.

Southwest China as a whole is part of the boundary between two of the Earth's tectonic plates, the Indian and Asian plates, whose constant collision has created the Himalayan mountains and Tibetan plateau.

Source AFP

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