Hundreds killed as 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattles southwest China

LUDIAN: At least 367 people have been killed and 1,881 others injured after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattled southwest China’s Yunnan province Sunday afternoon, rescuers said.
In Zhaotong City, the quake has killed 296 people and injured 1,591 in Ludian County. It has also left 60 dead and 193 injured in Qiaojia County, and caused another death in the city’s Zhaoyang District. Meanwhile, in Huize County of Qujing City, it has killed 10 people and injured 97 others. The strong quake struck at 4:30 pm Sunday (Beijing time) with a depth of 12 km. The epicentre is in Longtoushan Township, 23 km southwest of the county seat of Ludian, the China Earthquake Networks Center reported. 
At least 181 people were missing after the earthquake. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the quake has also injured more than 1,400 people. Meanwhile, more than 12,000 houses had been toppled and 30,000 damaged. Traffic, electricity and telecommunications have been cut off in the county. As of 8:42 pm, the road linking Qiaojia County and Ludian damaged by the quake and downpours has reopened after emergency repair, Zhaotong’s road administration told Xinhua. Meanwhile, the road connecting Zhaotong and Ludian has also been repaired. 
However, according to China Central Television, the only road linking Ludian and Longtoushan Township has been blocked by mudslide before the quake rattled Zhaotong. The quake has also led to at least 53 deaths in Qiaojia County of Zhaotong and nearby Huize County of Qujing City. Pictures and video clips on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, show firefighters helping those stuck in collapsed houses get out of the rubble. Many injured are put on stretchers by doctors and nurses while receiving intravenous injection. 
Ma Hao, a college student who is volunteering for the rescue at Longtoushan Township, told Xinhua that he saw bodies buried in ruins and 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. “I felt a strong jolt on my fifth-floor home and some small objects in my home fell off the shelves,” said a resident in the county seat of Ludian. Another resident said it felt like “sailing a boat” when he was driving a car in the tremor. 
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 got unanswered. 
“I just hope they are safe and sound. They didn’t answer the calls,” she said. The quake toppled and cracked many buildings, particularly old ones and residential homes. “Too many buildings were damaged and we are collecting data on deaths and injuries,” said Chen Guoyong, head of the Longtoushan township, adding an rescue operation is under way. The road leading to the township was damaged in a landslide before the quake and the traffic has not been resumed. As of 8 pm, more than 2,500 troops have been dispatched to the quake zone. 
Zhaotong City has dispatched more than 300 police and firefighters to the quake-hit area. The province also sent 392 rescuers and 12 sniffer dogs. The civil affairs authorities are sending 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the area. In a race to save more lives, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGO), including the One Foundation, have sent rescue staff to the quake-hit area. The Red Cross Society of China’s Yunnan Branch has sent 500 quilts, 500 blankets and 100 tents to the area, and will launch a donation campaign to help the victims. 
The Red Cross Society of China has also allocated 2,000 quilts, 2,000 jackets and 200 tents, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macao, and Sichuan Province have also sent relief supplies. Ludian has a population of nearly 430,000. Zhaotong, about 300 km from Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is on the earthquake belt and has been occasionally jolted by quakes. In September 2012, a 5.7-magnitude caused more than 80 deaths and injured more than 800 people. In 1974, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the same place caused over 1,400 deaths. It is raining hard in the quake zone, which may pose more challenges to rescue and relief work.

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