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Deadly quakes hit southwestern China

Rubble strewn across a road in southwestern China from quakes that killed at least 50 people today.

BEIJING — Two shallow 5.6 magnitude earthquakes hit mountainous southwestern China today, killing at least 50 people and forcing tens of thousands of people from damaged buildings, state media said.

The quakes struck near the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, the first one at 11:19 a.m. (0319 GMT) and the second one about 45 minutes later, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

About 160 people were injured and 20,000 homes damaged in the remote region about 350 km from the Yunnan provincial capital Kunming, the official

Xinhua news agency said. Most of the victims were from Yiliang county in Yunnan, near the epicentre of the quakes, which struck at a depth of about 9 km (5.6 miles) according to the USGS.

By mid-afternoon, authorities had moved more than 100,000 from the area as a series of more than 60 aftershocks struck. No deaths were reported in Guizhou province.

Calls to police stations and hospitals in Yiliang went unanswered, but a worker at No. 2 Renmin Hospital in Zhaotong city said medical staff were busy treating the injured. “We have admitted injured people, but don’t have an overall number yet, and we can’t comment without government approval,” he told Reuters, declining to give his name.

Buildings in China’s less developed regions are often thrown up with little regard for construction standards, making them susceptible to earthquakes.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed boulder-covered roadways, abandoned cars and black smoke pouring from buildings. (Reuters)

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