Earthquakes Kill at Least 80 People in Southwest China

Two magnitude 5.6 earthquakes shook southwestern China’s Yunnan and Guizhou provinces yesterday, killing at least 80 people, destroying more than 6,650 homes, triggering landslides and disrupting power and communications.

There were 820 reports of injuries, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today citing local authorities. Power and communications were cut off and transportation disrupted in Luozehe, the town in Yunnan’s Yiliang county that was worst hit, Xinhua said. More than 200,000 people in Yunnan and 28,000 in Guizhou have been relocated, it said.

Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at the quake-stricken areas to oversee rescue efforts after midnight, Xinhua reported. A 7.9-magnitude temblor in neighboring Sichuan province in May 2008 killed about 90,000 people after schools and buildings collapsed, sparking protests and accusations that corrupt officials turned a blind eye to substandard construction.

China allocated 1.05 billion yuan ($166 million) to Yunnan province for quake relief, the Ministry of Finance said today on its website.

The State and provincial civil affairs authorities have sent 21,000 tents, 31,000 quilts and 26,000 winter coats to Yunnan, Xinhua reported. A total of 744,000 people were affected by the earthquakes, it said. More than 60 aftershocks hit as of 6 p.m. local time, Xinhua said.

The death toll from yesterday’s earthquakes relative to their strength is because of a high population density, weak housing structures and the mountainous landscape, the People’s Daily newspaper reported on its website, citing Huangpu Gang, head of Yunnan’s earthquake bureau. The affected regions are inhabited by 205 residents for each square kilometer compared with the province’s average of 117, the newspaper said.

The second magnitude-5.6 quake jolted the border area of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan shortly after the first temblor struck at 11:19 a.m. yesterday, according to the website of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center.

— With assistance by Raymond Liu

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