A series of earthquakes on Friday in southwestern China struck a heavily populated area that lacks sound infrastructure, killing at least 64 people and leaving hundreds more injured, with the death toll likely to increase, state-run media reported.
The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that two 5.6-magnitude earthquakes hit within an hour of one another in the southwestern province of Yunnan, with both epicenters lying near the mountainous city of Zhaoyang. The agency said there were dozens of aftershocks.
Although only moderately powerful, the two quakes struck at a relatively shallow depth, which increases the likelihood of damage.
The quake was felt and did the most damage in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, state media said. Video footage from state-run CCTV showed piles of rubble, including bricks and pieces of concrete, strewn about streets.
Nearly all of the deaths were reported in Yunnan’s Yiliang County, a heavily populated area with what is said to have poor infrastructure and building construction. The region, considered one of the poorest in China, is mainly occupied by the Yi ethnic group.
“Many of the buildings there are built from bricks and beams, and they don’t have much load-bearing capacity,” Yunnan seismological chief Huang Fugang said, according to Radio Free Asia. “These structures basically aren’t earthquake-proof.”
State media reported that roads, telecommunications lines, medical facilities, schools, power plants, and other infrastructure were damaged in the quakes.
Four years ago, a quake that struck rural Sichuan Province, located north of Yunnan, left nearly 90,000 people dead. Many people blamed the devastation on badly built schools, bridges, and other buildings.
More than 100,000 people were evacuated in affected areas throughout Yunnan, state mouthpiece Xinhua said, adding that more than 6,000 houses were destroyed and 430,000 homes were said to be damaged. Around 200,000 people will likely have to be moved in Yiliang and the lives of 700,000 people were affected, the news agency reported.
Mr. Zhu of Maoping village in Yilang County told The Epoch Times that around “a third of the houses have collapses and 90 percent are damaged so badly that people can’t live there.”
The death toll is likely to increase in the coming days due to landslides and mudslides triggered by the quakes.
“The hardest part of the rescue now is [the] traffic [situation],” Li Fuchun, the head of the Luozehe township, located near the epicenter of the quake, told Xinhua. “Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb the mountains to reach hard-hit villages.”
A settlement located near a zinc mine in Luozehe was also seriously damaged with around two dozen families forced to evacuate due to falling boulders. “It is scary. My brother was killed by falling rocks. The aftershocks struck again and again. We are so afraid,” miner Peng Zhuwen was quoted as saying.
News of the quake reverberated throughout Chinese social media websites, including the Sina Weibo Twitter-like site, where numerous people posted their condolences, prayers, and pictures of candles for the victims in the disaster.
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