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Updated: Mon, 04 Aug 2014 01:53:30 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

China earthquake: Death toll at over 380, rescuers dig for survivors



A paramilitary policeman carries an elderly man on his back after an earthquake hit Ludian county of Zhaotong, Yunnan province August 3, 2014. The magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck southwestern China on Sunday, killing at least 150 people in the remote mountainous area of Yunnan province, causing some buildings, including a school, to collapse, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/China Daily (© CHINA - Tags: DISASTER)

A paramilitary policeman carries an elderly man on his back after an earthquake hit Ludian county of Zhaotong, Yunnan province August 3, 2014. The magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck southwestern China on Sunday, killing at least 150 people in the remote mountainous area of Yunnan province, causing some buildings, including a school, to collapse, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/China Daily (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTR412QN China Daily/Reuters

Rescuers dug through shattered homes early Monday looking for survivors of a strong earthquake in southern China's Yunnan province that killed at least 381 people and injured more than 1,800.

About 12,000 homes collapsed in Ludian, a densely populated county located about 366 kilometers northeast of Yunnan's capital, Kunming, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, at a depth of 10 kilometres, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Its epicentre was in Longtoushan township, 23 kilometers southwest of the city of Zhaotong, the Ludian county seat. China's earthquake monitoring agency put the magnitude at 6.5.

Ma Liya, a resident of Zhaotong, told Xinhua that the streets there were like a "battlefield after bombardment." She added that her neighbour's house, a new two-storey building, had toppled, and said the quake was far worse than one that struck the area in 2012 and killed 81 people.

"The aftermath is much, much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago," Ma said. "I have never felt such strong tremors before. What I can see are all ruins."

Photos on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media site, showed rescuers searching through flattened buildings and people injured amid toppled bricks.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered "his condolences to the Chinese Government and the families of those killed," according to a statement from his office. The statement said the UN is ready to "lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs" and "to mobilize any international support needed."

The White House also offered its condolences.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives," said National Security Council deputy spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. "The United States stands ready to assist." 

Brick homes collapse

Many of the homes that collapsed in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were old and made of brick, Xinhua said, adding that electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county.

The mountainous region where the quake occurred is largely agricultural, with farming and mining the top industries, and is prone to earthquakes.

Relief efforts were underway, with more than 2,500 troops dispatched to the disaster region, Xinhua said. The Red Cross Society of China allocated quilts, jackets and tents for those made homeless by the quake, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macau and neighbouring Sichuan province also sent relief supplies.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the quake was the strongest to hit Yunnan in 14 years.

In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake in the province killed more than 1,400 in 1974. In September 2012, 81 people died and 821 were injured in a series of quakes in the Yunnan region.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

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