SHANGHAI — The devastation from Saturday's earthquake in southwestern China might be much worse than initially feared, state-run news media reported Sunday, saying that more than 250,000 homes were destroyed and that the death toll had risen to at least 32 and was likely to go higher.
Centered on the border regions between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, the magnitude 6.1 quake damaged highways, reservoirs, bridges and hundreds of schools. It forced the evacuation of about 152,000 people in Sichuan and neighboring Yunnan province, reported Xinhua, the state news agency. More than 450 people were reported injured.
Sichuan was devastated May 12 by China's worst natural disaster in more than 30 years, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people and left millions homeless, so thoroughly damaging the region that recovery efforts are expected to take years, if not decades.
Poor communication in the southern part of Sichuan was making it difficult for the government and news agencies to determine the scale of the damage or how many people had died over the weekend. A strong aftershock, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1, was reported in Sichuan Sunday afternoon, but it was unclear whether there was any new damage, Chinese officials said.
The earthquake struck at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, according to Xinhua, and was centered near the city of Panzhihua in the southern part of Sichuan, far south of the May 12 earthquake. The China Earthquake Administration ordered an emergency response to the area after early reports of heavy damage.
Sichuan is one of China's largest provinces, and Sichuan and Yunnan are both home to millions of people from ethnic minorities.
The government said that about 70,000 people in Panzhihua alone were affected by Saturday's earthquake. And in one region of Sichuan, about 660 school buildings were destroyed.
Dozens of evacuees were assembled on a primary school field in Panzhihua, footage from state broadcaster China Central Television showed. Wrapped in quilts, the evacuees, including children and the elderly, lay on plastic sheets and mats on the ground.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.