BEIJING (AP) — A series of earthquakes jolted a mountainous part of southwestern China on Friday, collapsing houses, triggering landslides and killing at least 43 people.
The quakes, which ranged from a magnitude of 4.8 to 5.6, struck rural, agricultural areas of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. The spokesman from the Yunnan seismological bureau, Zhang Junwei, said most of the deaths were in the worst-hit county of Yiliang in Yunnan.
Zhang said another 150 people were hurt.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the quakes destroyed or damaged 20,000 homes. Buildings in rural areas in China are often constructed poorly. In 2008, a severe earthquake in Sichuan province, just north of Yunnan, killed nearly 90,000 people, with many of the deaths blamed on poorly built buildings, including schools.
A statement on the website of the Yunnan seismological bureau said more than 100,000 people had been evacuated in Yunnan.
Xinhua said a total of 700,000 people in Yiliang and neighboring Daguan county had their lives disrupted by the quakes. It said earthquakes are common in the area.
A government official in Jiaokui, a town in Yiliang, said a large number of houses had collapsed.
"The casualty number is still being compiled. I don't know what was like for the other towns, but my town got hit badly," he said. Like many Chinese officials he refused to give his name.
State-run China Central Television showed several hundred people crowded into a school athletic field in Yiliang's county seat — a sizeable town spread in a mountain valley along a river. A black, pillar-shaped cloud of dust rose over the horizon, apparently from a landslide in a nearby valley.
Xinhua said the provincial government had sent work teams to the quake-hit areas and the civil affairs department was shipping thousands of tents, blankets and coats to the areas.
It said that so far no casualties had been reported in Guizhou, but that homes had been damaged or destroyed there.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 5.6 quake hit at a depth of 9.8 kilometers (6.1 miles). Shallower earthquakes often cause more damage than deeper ones.
Zhang said 30 seismological experts had arrived in the quake-stricken areas and another 52 were on their way.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.