80 killed, hundreds injured in SW China quakes
Updated: 2012-09-07 13:08
KUNMING -- Eighty people have been confirmed dead as of 8 am Saturday after multiple earthquakes struck southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, authorities said.
The death toll may further climb as the quakes happened at a poverty-stricken mountainous region where telecommunications and traffic infrastructure were damaged seriously, making it difficult to collect information promptly, said a spokesman with the provincial civil affairs department.
Updated at 8:30 am, Sept 8
67 killed, 731 injured in SW China quake
A car is destroyed by falling rocks in Luozehe town of Yiliang county in Southwest China's Yunnan province after an earthquake on Sept 7, 2012.[Photo/Xinhua]
Villagers affected by the earthquakes wait for assistance near a road in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, Sept 7, 2012. [Photo by Huang Xingneng/Asianewsphoto]
A farmer makes a tent in a village in earthquake-hit Zhaotong, Yunnan province, Sept 7, 2012. [Photo by Huang Xingneng/Asianewsphoto]
ZHAOTONG, Yunnan - Sixty-seven people have been confirmed dead and 731 others were injured after multiple earthquakes struck a mountainous region in Southwest China's Yunnan province on Friday, the province's civil affairs department said.
The death toll may continue to rise as rescuers are yet to reach some of the quake-hit villages blocked off by landslides and falling rocks, officials with Zhaotong city, Yunnan province, told Xinhua.
Power and communications appeared to be cut off in the worst-hit areas.
According to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), a magnitude-5.7 earthquake hit the border area of Yiliang county of Yunnan and Weining county of Guizhou province at 11:19 am. The depth of its epicenter was about 14 km. It was followed by more than 60 tremors, with four above 4.0 on the Richter scale.
The epicenter was traced to Luozehe town, about 33 km away from the city center of Zhaotong. Forty-nine people were killed in Yiliang. The other known death occurred in urban Zhaotong, said an official with the provincial civil affairs department.
The quake has disrupted the lives of over 700,000 people in Yiliang and Daguan counties as well as Zhaoyang District, which are all under the administration of Zhaotong, the city's civil affairs bureau reported. So far, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated. More than 20,000 houses were damaged or had collapsed.
In Guizhou, the quakes have also toppled three homes and damaged 1,540 more, slightly injuring one person, according to the provincial civil affairs department.
A motorcycle falls on top of broken bricks after an earthquake jolted Yiliang county of Yunnan province on Sept 7, 2012. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn / Feng Ke]
Mining community destroyed
"The hardest part of the rescue now is traffic," said Li Fuchun, head of Luozehe township. "Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb the mountains to reach hard-hit villages."
Li said the number of casualties might be high but it is impossible to assess until the rescuers reach the hard-hit villages.
Xinhua reporters in Luozehe saw big rocks, some as tall as four meters, tumbling down the mountain slopes and crashing onto the roads. Landslides were also triggered.
A settlement of a zinc mine in Luozehe was seriously damaged. More than two dozen mining families have been evacuated out of their damaged houses.
"It is scary. My brother was killed by falling rocks. The aftershocks struck again and again. We are so scared," said miner Peng Zhuwen.
Retired miner Liu Linde, 62, said when the quake struck, he was thrown three meters off the road.
"When I returned, the gate of my house had collapsed. Cracks appeared everywhere on the walls," Liu said. POOR AND POPULOUS AREA
The quake-stricken area is relatively populous, which was one of the main reasons behind the heavy casualties, noted Huangfu Gang, director of Yunnan's seismological bureau.
The population density of the area is estimated at 205 people per square kilometer, nearly twice the figure for the whole province, which is 117 people per square kilometer, Huangfu said.
Meanwhile, the epicenters of the two strong quakes were located very close to the county. The first one, measured at magnitude 5.7, struck 15 km from the county seat of Yiliang. The second 5.6-magnitude quake hit just 5 km from the county seat, according to Huangfu.
He also said that homes and buildings in the relatively poor region were not built strongly enough to resist the destructive power of a violent earthquake.
Moreover, the mountainous terrain makes the quake more devastating, with landslides easily triggered, the expert added.
Zhaotong, with a population of about 5.6 million, is prone to geological disasters. A magnitude-5.6 earthquake in 2003 killed four people and injured 594 in the county of Ludian. In 2010, rain-triggered landslides left 45 dead or missing in the county of Qiaojia.