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Yunnan earthquake claims at least 398 lives, injures over a thousand

An injured child is carried by paramilitary policemen on a stretcher after an earthquake hit Longtoushan township of Ludian county, Yunnan province August 3, 2014. Photo: Reuters

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck southern China's Yunnan province on August 3, killing at least 398 people and injuring more than 1,800. 

About 12,000 homes collapsed after the quake hit the densely populated Ludian county, northeast of Kunming at 4:30 pm on Sunday with a depth of 12 km. The epicenter was in Longtoushan Township, 23 km southwest of Zhaotong, in Ludian county, the China Earthquake Networks Center reported.

Ma Hao, a college student who is volunteering for the rescue at Longtoushan Township, told Xinhua that he saw bodies buried in ruins, and that he helped to carry more than 40 injured people out of the collapsed buildings.
 
"Honestly, it's such a shame that we had no time to take care of the bodies. We need to help those alive first," he said.
 
Ma Liya, a resident in the county seat, told Xinhua via telephone that the streets were like "battlefield after bombardment." She added that the house of her neighbor, a new two-story building, was toppled.
 
"It's so terrible. The aftermath is much much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago. I have never felt so strong tremors before. What I can see are all ruins," she said.
 
However, Ma is worrying more about the family of her cousin, who live in the epicenter Longtoushan, as her calls to the families went unanswered.
 
Aftershocks have triggered landslides and cracked many bridges, forcing rescuers to walk on foot to the quake-hit area.
 
The landslides blocked a river in Hongshiyan Village, forming a barrier lake that threatens 800 villagers.
 
Many of the homes that collapsed in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were old and made of brick, Xinhua said, adding that electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county.
 
The mountainous region where the quake occurred is largely agricultural, with farming and mining the top industries, and is prone to earthquakes.
 
Relief efforts were underway, with more than 2,500 troops dispatched to the disaster region, Xinhua said. The Red Cross Society of China allocated quilts, jackets and tents for those made homeless by the quake, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macau and neighboring Sichuan province also sent relief supplies.
 
In instructions issued late Sunday night, President Xi Jinping ordered that authorities concerned give top priority to saving people's lives, minimize casualties and guarantee a proper settlement for quake victims.
 
He called for all-out efforts in relief operation and strengthening aftershock monitoring to prevent secondary disasters.

Separately, the US Geological Survey, which measured the tremor at 6.1 magnitude, warned “Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking”.

Prone to earthquakes

Earlier, at 1.57pm, another quake of magnitude 5.0 jolted neighbouring Shigatse prefecture of Tibet, Xinhua reported. No reports of casualties had been received from there.

Southwest China lies where the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates meet and is an area prone to earthquakes.

In 1974, a 6.8-magnitude quake in the area killed more than 1,500 people.

In September 2012, 80 people were killed when twin earthquakes struck the mountainous border area of Yunnan and Guizhou.

In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude quake rocked Sichuan, which neighbours Yunnan, killing tens of thousands of people and flattening swathes of the province.


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