BEIJING – A strong earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part of China's southwest Sunday, killing at least 367 people, injuring more than 1,800 and toppling more than 12,000 homes, state-run media reported.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. local time.The China Earthquake Networks Center measured the quake as magnitude-6.5 and said the epicenter was along a known earthquake belt in Ludian county of Zhaotong City, in southwest Yunnan province.
Most of the deaths — 357 — were in Zhaotong City, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Another 10 people were killed in Quijing City.
It was the strongest quake to hit Yunnan in 14 years, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
Ma Liya, a resident in the Ludian county seat, told Xinhua that the streets were like a "battlefield after bombardment." Transportation, electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county, the news agency said. CCTV showed emergency workers climbing over large boulders that had fallen and blocked roads in the mountainous and poor region.
China dispatched more than 2,500 troops to the disaster region, Xinhua said. Civil affairs authorities and the Red Cross of China were sending thousands of tents, folding beds, quilts and coats to the region to aid those in the quake area, CCTV said.
Aftershocks, landslides, rain and thunderstorms are hampering rescue efforts, The People's Daily newspaper and the Sina.com website reported. Heavy rains are forecast for the next three days.
Since the massive 2008 earthquake in neighboring Sichuan province that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing, China has invested heavily in a national earthquake monitoring and early warning system that cannot forecast a tremor but may be able to notify people seconds before seismic waves reach their area.
The China News Service, a state-run news agency, said Sunday that local seismology bureaus had issued warnings for Zhaotong 10 seconds ahead of the quake reaching the city, and gave a 57-second warning for the provincial capital Kunming.
In Sichuan's Yibin city, the Yibin News website reported residents had received cell-phone warnings 40 seconds before the quake. The official Yunnan.cn website quoted a seismic expert who was skeptical of the warnings claimed in Chinese media reports.
Contributing: Sunny Yang and the Associated Press