ZHAOTONG, Yunnan, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- A magnitude-5.7 earthquake that struck mountainous southwest China on Friday killed at least 50 people and injured more than 150 others.
The death toll may continue to rise as rescuers are yet to reach some of the quake-hit villages blocked off by landslides and falling rocks, officials with Zhaotong city, Yunnan province, told Xinhua.
Power and communications appeared to be cut off in the worst-hit areas.
According to China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), the earthquake hit the border area of Yiliang county of Yunnan and Weining county of Guizhou Province at 11:19 a.m. The depth of its epicenter was about 14 km.
The epicenter was traced at Luozehe town, about 33 km away from the city center of Zhaotong. Forty-nine people were killed in Yiliang. The other death was from urban Zhaotong, said an official with the provincial civil affairs department.
As of 1 p.m., the quake-hit area suffered 16 aftershocks, with the strongest measuring 5.6 degrees on the Richter scale, according to Yunnan provincial seismological bureau.
The quake has disrupted the lives of over 700,000 people in Yiliang and Daguan counties as well as Zhaoyang district, which are all under the administration of Zhaotong, the city's civil affairs bureau reported. So far, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated.
No casualties have been reported in Guizhou Province, but the quake damaged and toppled homes in Weining county, said Chen Bo, head of the county government.
MINING COMMUNITY DESTROYED
"The hardest part of the rescue now is traffic," said Li Fuchun, head of Luozehe township. "Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb the mountains to reach hard-hit villages."
Li said the number of casualties might be high but it is impossible to assess until the rescuers reach the hard-hit villages.
Xinhua reporters in Luozehe saw big rocks, some as high as four meters, tumbling down the mountain slopes crashing onto the roads. Landslides were also triggered.
A settlement of a zinc mine in Luozehe was seriously damaged, according to Xinhua reporters. More than two dozens of mining families have been evacuated out of their cracked houses.
"It is scary. My brother was killed by falling rocks. The aftershocks struck again and again. We are so afraid," said miner Peng Zhuwen.
Retired miner Liu Linde, 62, said when the quake struck, he was thrown three meters off the road.
"When I returned, the gate of my house had collapsed. Cracks everywhere on the walls," Liu said.
Zhaotong, with a population of about 5.6 million, is prone to geological disasters. A magnitude-5.6 earthquake in 2003 killed four people and injured 594 in the county of Ludian. In 2010, rain-triggered landslides left 45 dead or missing in the county of Qiaojia.