At least one dead after major quake hits southwest China

At least one dead after major quake hits southwest China

At least one person is dead and more than a dozen have been injured after a strong earthquake hit southwest China Tuesday night, Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the Chinese Earthquake Administration, three people were seriously injured and at least 20 others had minor injuries. Some homes near the epicenter were destroyed, officials said.

Chinese officials say they have activated their national earthquake emergency plan, and that crews are en route to assist with rescue and disaster response.

The shallow earthquake, which was at least 6.0 in magnitude, was centered about 11 miles west of Weiyuan, China, in Yunnan province.

The area borders Myanmar, Laos and northern Vietnam.

There was some conflict in the reported magnitudes of the quake: United States Geological Society data reported a 6.0 magnitude, while China's Earthquake Administration said it was a 6.6 quake. Chinese officials said the quake occurred at a depth of about 3.1 miles.

Chinese officials say a total of 30 aftershocks have been recorded in the area since 9:49 p.m., when the initial earthquake occurred. Eight of those were between 2.9 and 4.2 in magnitude, according to China's earthquake administration.

Officials there said shaking could be felt as far away as Kunming, about 270 miles away, officials said.

In a statement, officials with the earthquake agency said they are anticipating a high number of injuries and deaths and heavy damage to the area.

According to initial computer modeling from the USGS, significant damage is likely and the disaster could be "potentially widespread."

Data from USGS says people in the surrounding areas live "in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking," with the primary building type being unreinforced brick masonry and adobe block construction.

USGS seismologist David Wald, the likelihood of "scores" or even hundreds of fatalities is high, given the types of buildings in the region and the history of damage from previous earthquakes in the area.

Yunnan province was the site of a 6.1 earthquake in August, which flattened tens of thousands of buildings and killed more than 600 people, according to China's Emergency Management Office. The incident highlighted the poor quality of construction in the rugged, mountainous region.

Wald says the fact that the earthquake occurred at night could mean an increased chance of fatalities, because so many people live in poorly built structures. "In California, probably the safest place you would be during an earthquake at night is in your home," Wald says. "In China, and in a number of places with agricultural societies, during the day you'd have a lot of people outside, and the worst time would be at night."

According to a statement on the agency's website, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang has ordered a Level II earthquake disaster emergency response, and initial field teams are being sent to the site of the quake.

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