Earthquake in China kills 3, injures 290 in tea-making region
5-year-old boy fatally crushed, state TV reports
BEIJING -- An earthquake in southwest China early yesterday left at least three people dead -- including a boy crushed by debris -- while injuring hundreds, destroying buildings, and forcing the evacuation of 120,000 residents, state media reported.
The 6.4-magnitude quake struck the county seat of Ning'er shortly after 5:30 a.m., said China's official Xinhua News Agency, citing the government's seismological bureau. The US Geological Survey measured the quake's magnitude at 6.2.
At least three people died and more than 290 were injured, 15 seriously, Xinhua reported. One of the dead was a 5-year-old boy who was crushed by debris, state television reported. The boy's parents were also trapped but were rescued by local residents .
Residents said the initial quake lasted about a minute and that many residents fled their homes to find safety in open areas. Others moved into tents after their homes were damaged, said a retired schoolteacher who gave only her surname, Dong.
"Many old buildings, especially those built in the 1970s, either have cracks in the walls or have collapsed," Dong told the Associated Press by phone.
News footage aired on China Central Television showed partly collapsed brick homes and soldiers knocking down unstable structures. Doctors and nurses treated the injured in a large tent. Rescue teams with thousands of tents, quilts, and other relief supplies were rushing to the area, Xinhua reported.
Ning'er lies in a quake-prone mountainous region in Yunnan Province about 90 miles north of Laos, and is famous for its strong tea, known as Pu'er. For centuries, the area sat astride an important trade route for tea and horses that ran along western China between central Asia and southeastern Asia.
Many of the area's residents belong to the Hani and Yi minority groups that once thrived in small hillside villages but have moved into the county seat.
The quake damaged pipes, cutting off water supplies, and though electricity was still on in some areas, shops and schools were closed, Dong said.
Xinhua said communications lines were also down , making it difficult for residents to make phone calls. By 2 p.m., the seismological bureau recorded 233 aftershocks, the strongest with a magnitude of 5.1, said an official with the bureau.