Quakes in southwestern China kill 80, injure hundreds

ZHAOTANG, CHINA (BNO NEWS) -- Two moderate earthquakes shook a mountainous region in southwestern China on Friday morning, killing at least 80 people and injuring nearly 1,000 others, local authorities said on Saturday. The death toll is likely to rise as rescue operations are continuing.

The first earthquake, measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale, struck at a depth of about 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) and was centered about 13.5 kilometers (8.6 miles) southwest of Yiliang, a town in Yiliang County of Yunnan province. It was followed by a 5.6-magnitude earthquake in the same area about an hour later.

Officials at the China Earthquake Administration (CEA) confirmed at least 80 people were killed while 820 people were injured. Footage released by state-run media showed debris-covered roadways, damaged buildings and vehicles, injured people, and thick black smoke rising from destroyed buildings.

Computer models from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that some 26,000 people in the epicenter may have perceived 'very strong' exposure, which can result in moderate to heavy damage, from the first earthquake. Some 2.4 million others may have felt moderate to strong shaking.

Buildings in many regions of China are extremely vulnerable to earthquake shaking, and even light earthquakes frequently cause serious damage and casualties. A 2.9-magnitude earthquake struck central China in November 2011, causing a rockslide at a coal mine which killed eight workers.

And in August 2011, at least 26 people were injured when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, destroying 80 homes. It followed a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in China's Yunnan Province in March, killing 26 people and injuring more than 300 others.

Most notably, nearly 3,000 people were killed and more than 12,000 others were injured when a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck northwest China in April 2010.

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