China: Hundreds dead after Yunnan earthquake

Residents gather near damaged houses following the earthquake. Picture: Getty
Residents gather near damaged houses following the earthquake. Picture: Getty
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A STRONG earthquake in southern China’s Yunnan province toppled thousands of homes yesterday, killing at least 357 people and injuring more than 1,400.

About 12,000 homes collapsed in Ludian, a densely populated region of 429,000 people situated around 277 miles north-east of the Yunnan province capital, Kunming, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

The magnitude-6.1 earthquake occurred at 4:30 yesterday afternoon local time at a depth of six miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

Its epicentre was in Longtoushan township, 14 miles south-west of the city of Zhaotong.

Ma Liya, a resident of Zhaotong, said the streets there were like a “battlefield after bombardment.” She said her neighbour’s house, a new two-storey building, had toppled.

Xinhua said at least 357 people had been killed in the quake, with 181 missing and 1,402 injured.

At least 122 of the dead were in Ludian, with another 1,300 people injured there. It is thought that more people died in Qiaojia county, which has a population of 580,000. However, the death toll was expected to rise.

News reports said rescuers were still trying to reach victims in more remote towns last night.

Photos on the Chinese social media site Weibo showed rescuers searching through flattened buildings and people injured amid toppled bricks.

Other photos showed troops stretchering people away, and bricks which had fallen off buildings, damaging cars.

Many people rushed out of buildings on to the street after the quake hit, electricity supplies were cut and at least one school collapsed.

The government is sending 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the disaster zone.

The mountainous region next to the Sichuan province is largely agricultural, with farming and mining the top industries.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the quake was the strongest to hit Yunnan in 14 years. It reported the quake had loosened rocks that blocked a road near the city of Zhaotong and broadcast an image of a car apparently damaged by debris.

In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake in the province killed more than 1,400 in 1974. In September 2012, 81 people died and 821 were injured in a series of quakes in the Yunnan region. In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

Elsewhere in China, an explosion that ripped through a motor wheels factory in the eastern province of Jiangsu killed 71 people and injured 186 on Saturday.

The accident at the Zhongrong Metal Products plant, which makes aluminium wheels for car makers including General Motors, was China’s worst industrial accident in a year.

According to Zhongrong’s website, the factory made wheels that are supplied to GM and many other car makers.

The blast at the Zhongrong workshop occurred at about 7:30 on Saturday morning local time in Kunshan city, about an hour’s drive from Shanghai.

A preliminary investigation suggested the blast had been triggered when a flame was lit in a dust-filled room, the local government said at a news conference, describing the incident as a serious safety breach.