BEIJING – An earthquake killed 14 people, injured nearly 400 and destroyed 8,500 homes in Jiangxi province in eastern China on Saturday morning, the state media Xinhua reported.
Some 130,000 homes were damaged in the worst-hit Jiujiang and Ruicheng counties, while 420,000 people moved to safer areas. Emergency officials rushed tents to the zone to shelter the homeless and earthquake specialists flew down from Beijing.
The quake, which measured 5.7 on the Richter scale, hit at 8.49 am local time. It was followed around 20 minutes later by two aftershocks, Xinhua said.
State media showed images of crumpled or cracked houses, a mother crying outside the home where her daughter was trapped and residents moving their bedding outside for fear of damaged buildings or aftershocks.
By noon local time 6 people were reported dead in Jiujiang county, while 247 were injured, 8000 houses had collapsed and 29,000 were damaged, Xinhua said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said on its Web site (www.earthquake.usgs.gov/recenteqsww/Quakes/usfwbf.htm) that the earthquake was “moderate” and of magnitude 5.5 at a depth of 10kms (6.2 miles).
In Ruicheng county, 6 people died, 130 were injured, 500 houses collapsed and 100,000 were damaged, Xinhua said. It was not clear where the other two victims were killed.
Jiujiang's earthquake management office said the epicenter lay near the boundary between the two counties.
In Ruicheng's Baiyang town, a carpenter fell to his death from a building he was mending, said an official from the town of 10,000, adding that many buildings had collapsed.
“We have no tents so we are worried about the health of the old and the young if they have to sleep outside.”
Many people are scared to return home even to collect food or clothes, and the government was encouraging people to spend the night in the open air, although temperatures could slide to 8 degrees Celsius, said another official surnamed Zhang.
The quake was also felt in neighboring Hunan, Hubei and Anhui provinces, state television reported, while in the industrial hub of Wuhan, people frightened by the tremors rushed into the street.
“We were having breakfast when we heard someone outside shouting 'earthquake', so we ran out. The streets were packed with people,” retiree Zhang Zhen told Reuters by telephone.