BEIJING — Twin earthquakes and a spate of aftershocks struck southwestern China on Friday, toppling thousands of houses and sending boulders cascading across roads. At least 80 people were killed and hundreds injured in the remote mountainous area, and more than 100,000 residents were evacuated.
Damage was preventing rescuers from reaching outlying towns, and communications were disrupted after the midday quakes struck along the borders of Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, a region of small farms and mines where some of China's poorest people live.
The first magnitude-5.6 quake struck just before 11:30 a.m. and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon, joined by dozens of aftershocks. Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow, which often causes more damage.
Hardest hit was Yiliang County, where all but one of the deaths occurred, according to the Yunnan provincial government's official website. About 730 people in the area were injured, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. Yiliang's high population density, flimsy building construction and landslide-prone hillsides were blamed for the relatively high death toll.
China Central Television showed roads littered with rocks and boulders, and pillars of dust rising over hilltops from the landslides. One image taken just as a quake struck showed people running out of a supermarket as the ground shook.
Friday's quakes destroyed 6,650 homes across several counties and townships, Xinhua said. The Yunnan seismology bureau said more than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes. All told, 700,000 people had their lives disrupted by the quake, Xinhua said.