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China quake kills 381, flattens 12,000 homes

Magnitude at 6.1; thousands homeless


This article was published August 4, 2014 at 3:53 a.m.


In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers transport injured people after an earthquake in Zhaotong City in the densely populated Ludian county in southwest China's Yunnan Province, Sunday Aug. 3, 2014. The strong earthquake in southern China's Yunnan province toppled thousands of homes on Sunday, killing at least 175 people and injuring more than 1,400, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency. (AP Photo / Xinhua, Zhang Guangyu) NO SALES

BEIJING -- A strong earthquake in southern China's Yunnan province toppled thousands of homes Sunday, killing at least 381 people and injuring more than 1,800.

About 12,000 homes collapsed and about 30,000 had been damaged in Ludian, a densely populated county about 277 miles northeast of Yunnan's capital, Kunming, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. at a depth of 6 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Its epicenter was in Longtoushan township, 14 miles southwest of the city of Zhaotong, the Ludian county seat.

Zhang Fang, 20, a resident of Longtoushan, said she had been cooking potatoes in her family's mud-brick kitchen when the quake struck.

"I just fell to the ground and stayed there until the shaking stopped, and then I cried and cried," Zhang said, speaking by cellphone from Longtoushan after emerging from her house unscathed.

She said most of the buildings in her village were flattened, including an elementary school where a number of students were said to have been trapped.

Ma Liya, a resident of Zhaotong, told Xinhua that the streets there were like a "battlefield after bombardment." She added that her neighbor's house, a new two-story building, had toppled, and said the quake was far worse than one that struck the area in 2012 and killed 81 people.

"The aftermath is much, much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago," Ma said. "I have never felt such strong tremors before. What I can see are all ruins."

Xinnhua said at least 381 people were killed in the quake, with 1,891 injured, 3 missing and 29,400 evacuated.

The death toll was expected to rise, once rescuers reached remote communities to assess casualties.

News reports said rescuers -- more than 600 police officers and workers and 12 sniffer dogs -- were still trying to reach victims in more remote towns Sunday night.

Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless as rainfall in the region is expected to continue for days. The main road leading to the most heavily affected area was initially blocked by a landslide but had been cleared by late Sunday, according to the state news media.

Photos on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media site, showed rescuers searching through flattened buildings and injured people near piles of toppled bricks.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered "his condolences to the Chinese Government and the families of those killed," according to a statement from his office. The statement said the U.N. is ready to "lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs" and "to mobilize any international support needed."

The White House also offered its condolences.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives," said National Security Council deputy spokesman Bernadette Meehan. "The United States stands ready to assist."

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. It is among the poorest regions in the country.

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 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, the strongest recorded at a magnitude of 5.6.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

Information for this article was contributed by Henry Hou contributed of The Associated Press and by Andrew Jacobs and Patrick Zuo of The New York Times.

A Section on 08/04/2014

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