China earthquake forces thousands to camp outside as aftershocks strike

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A strong, earthquake has hit south-western China, killing at least one person, damaging buildings and prompting thousands to camp outside as aftershocks continued to strike the area.

The earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.0 hit the Weiyuan city area of Yunnan province at 9.49pm local time, when most would have been in their homes.

At least 324 people also were injured, eight of them seriously, the Yunnan provincial government said. “The whole building was shaking terribly with a loud cracking sound. Plates fell off in the kitchen,” Weiyuan resident Li Anqin said. “We all ran out and the streets are packed.”

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake measured magnitude 6.0 at a depth of 6.3 miles. Its shallow focus was likely to cause greater damage, but there were no reports of serious destruction.

China’s national earthquake monitoring agency gave the quake’s magnitude as 6.6 and said it struck just 3.1 miles below the surface. It said the quake was followed by eight aftershocks, the strongest of which registered at magnitude 4.2.

Premier Li Keqiang ordered an “all-out effort” to rescue quake victims, ensure the delivery of food, water and other supplies, and fix disruption to transportation and communications.

Worst hit was the town of Yongping, three miles from the epicentre, where some houses had collapsed, state news agency Xinhua said.

Yongping has a population of 54,000, while the surrounding county of Jinggu closest to the epicentre has a population of 290,000.

Residents in a community near a two square mile reservoir in Jinggu were evacuated after the reservoir’s dam was found to have an 3in-widecrack that was leaking water following the quake. Officials were assessing the risk to the dam and seeing about repairs, said a Jinggu county official.

Xinhua said strong tremors were felt in the provincial capital, Kunming, about 220 miles to the north east. It said an initial 230-member rescue team was dispatched to the quake area within two hours of its striking.

State television reporter Wang Jian, in the city of Pu’er, about 53 miles from the epicentre, said people fled buildings and were camping outdoors in anticipation of more aftershocks.

The remote mountainous region near the border with Burma is prone to earthquakes. A 6.1-magnitude quake in northern Yunnan in August killed at least 615 people and left more than 100 others missing. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people.