May 23, 2013
Quakes in China kill dozens, damage 20,000 homes
Two shallow 5.6 magnitude earthquakes hit southwestern China today, killing at least 50 people and forcing tens of thousands of people from damaged buildings, state media said.
The quakes struck near the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, the first one at 11.19 am (0319 GMT) and the second one about 45 minutes later, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.
About 150 people were injured and 20,000 homes damaged, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Most of the victims were from Yiliang county, Yunnan province, near the epicentre of the quakes, which struck at a depth of about 9 km (5.6 miles) according to the USGS.
By mid-afternoon, authorities had moved more than 100,000 from the area as a series of aftershocks struck. No deaths were reported in Guizhou province.
Calls to police stations and hospitals in Yiliang went unanswered, but a worker at No. 2 Renmin Hospital in Zhaotong city said medical staff were treating the injured.
"We have admitted injured people, but don't have an overall number yet, and we can't comment without government approval," he told Reuters, declining to give his name.
Buildings in China's less developed regions are often thrown up with little regard for construction standards, making them susceptible to earthquakes.
In 2008, about 87,600 people were killed in the southwestern province of Sichuan when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. Many of the victims died in the rubble of homes and schools built without adequate steel reinforcement.
A 6.9 magnitude earthquake in April 2010 killed nearly 3,000 people in a remote part of western Qinghai province, devastating much of Yushu county, where many displaced by the disaster still live in tents.
Quakes with an epicentre less than 70 km below the surface are considered shallow and can cause significant damage, even at lower magnitudes.
Christchurch, the largest city in New Zealand's South Island, is still recovering from a 5-km-deep quake measuring 6.3 which killed 182 people in February 2011.