Two buses navigated a road of fallen rocks after a series of earthquakes in southwest China on Friday.
BEIJING — A series of earthquakes shook two rural provinces in southwestChina on Friday, killing at least 64 people and destroying more than 6,600 homes, provincial authorities said.
The tremors hit Yunnan and adjoining Guizhou Provinces, both agricultural areas populated by some of China’s poorest people. The strongest earthquake had a magnitude of 5.7, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.
More than 200,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in Yunnan, a province known for its scenic beauty and ethnic diversity, according to the Yunnan Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau.
In the town of Luozehe, a rice- and tobacco-growing area in northeastern Yunnan, 46 people were killed, according to Qiu Yu, an official with the civil bureau. He said Prime Minister Wen Jiabao would fly to the earthquake zone on Friday. More than 700 people were injured and more than 120,000 homes seriously damaged, Mr. Qiu said.
The earthquake was so violent that rocks from landslides crushed cars in Luozehe, a water company worker, Tan Xuewen, said in a telephone interview. “Suddenly we felt the strong earthquake,” Mr. Tan said. “Huge rocks fell off the mountain. I immediately grabbed an old person and began to run.”
The local government authorities ordered people out of their homes, which are spread across the hills of a mountain valley, and told them to gather in the public square.
At a tiny primary school in Luozehe, the teacher, Ma Decai, said his 11 students ages 9 to 12 were eating lunch in the dining room when the earthquake hit.
“Dirt dropped form the ceiling into our bowls and cooking pots,” Mr. Ma said. The students abandoned their meal and ran out of the room, he said. As he tried to prepare a new lunch for the students, aftershocks struck the building.
Large cracks appeared in the mud and stone schoolhouse, and the toilet had collapsed. “Workers used steel in the construction, but they cut corners,” Mr. Ma said. “It’s not safe.”
In neighboring Guizhou Province, the authorities said they knew of no casualties. But homes in rural Guizhou often built of wood and mud are usually constructed on hillsides, and provincial authorities there said some homes had been damaged or destroyed.
Tents, blankets and coats were being dispatched to the region, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Guizhou, an area of rice farms and coal mines, is also undergoing major development, with hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the province in the last year to build roads, bridges and industrial zones. It was not immediately known if any of the new projects were damaged by the earthquake.
In 2008, a severe earthquake struck Sichuan Province, north of Yunnan, killing nearly 90,000 people. Many of the deaths were blamed on shoddy construction.