BEIJING, March 10, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP) – An earthquake toppled houses and damaged a hotel and supermarket in China’s extreme southwest near the border with Myanmar on Thursday, killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 150, officials and state media said.
Witnesses reported that people were buried under debris from buildings damaged by the quake, centered in Yunnan province’s Yingjiang county, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
China Central Television said the quake hit while many people, including students, were home for a customary midday rest. The report said at least two students were among those killed, but didn’t give details. The state broadcaster showed several buildings with concrete foundations that had cracked and buckled.
The website of the Chinese government earthquake monitoring station said the magnitude-5.8 quake struck just before 1 p.m. (0500 GMT) at a depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers). The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude of 5.4 and at a deeper 21 miles (35 kilometers).
At least 19 people were killed and 157 other people were hurt, said Ren Xueli, an official with the Yunnan Disaster Relief Center. China Central Television said 166 were injured.
CCTV reported that about 100 armed police, firefighters and soldiers were using three excavators to try to rescue a man and a girl trapped inside a four-story building that had partially collapsed.
He Shuhui, head of an armed police squad, was quoted as saying they were trapped in a stairway on the ground floor of the building.
Another official on duty at the center, Gao Shaotang, said many houses had been toppled. Xinhua said the army was sending 400 soldiers to the site for rescue efforts.
The epicenter was in Shiming Village, just over a mile (kilometer) from the county seat, but triggered a power outage across Yingjiang, which has a population of about 300,000 people, Xinhua said.
The mountainous area lies 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) southwest of Beijing, close to the border with Myanmar, and is home to many ethnic groups on both sides of the border, which sees heavy traffic in people and goods.
Xinhua said the quake-prone region has been hit by more than 1,000 minor tremors over the past two months.
The Myanmar Meteorological Department released a statement saying a quake had hit some 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city.
The statement did not mention injuries, damage or the specific area of Myanmar most affected by the quake. Authorities in the tightly ruled country tend not to immediately discuss the effects of natural disasters.
Much of the area on the Myanmar side been under the control of various armed ethnic groups, who have battled the Myanmar military to remain free from central government control. (*)