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22 dead as earthquake hits southwest China

- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2011

BEIJING (AP) — An earthquake toppled houses and damaged a hotel and supermarket in China's extreme southwest near the border with Myanmar on Thursday, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than 200, officials and state media said.

Photos from the scene showed buildings that buckled, crushing their lower floors. Police, firefighters and soldiers rushed to the area to pull out people trapped in the rubble, including a man and girl stuck in the stairwell of a four-story building, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.

One sidewalk was lined with injured people, lying on blankets and being shielded from the sun by large vendor umbrellas.

The quake hit while many people, including students, were home for a customary midday rest, the broadcaster said. In addition to the 22 killed, 201 people were injured, it said. The report said at least two students were among those killed but didn't give details.

The website of the Chinese government earthquake monitoring station said the magnitude-5.8 quake was centered on Yunnan province's Yingjiang County and struck just before 1 p.m. (midnight EST) at a depth of six miles. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude of 5.4 and at a deeper 21 miles.

Tremors continued to be felt in the area throughout the afternoon and evening, according to CCTV reporter Shu Qian, who was at the disaster scene in Yingjiang County.

The quake's epicenter was in Shiming Village, just over a mile from the county seat, but triggered a power outage across Yingjiang, which has a population of about 300,000 people, Xinhua said.

By evening, the power supply was still cut off, though water and communications didn't appear to be damaged, the television reporter said.

An official on duty at the quake monitoring center, Gao Shaotang, said many houses had been destroyed. Xinhua said the army was sending 400 soldiers to the site for rescue efforts.

A government team that includes the Civil Affairs Ministry also has been dispatched to the quake-stricken area, CCTV said. About 5,000 tents, 10,000 quilts and 10,000 coats are also being sent from the central government.

The mountainous area lies 1,500 miles southwest of Beijing, close to the border with Myanmar, and is home to many ethnic groups on both sides of the border, which sees heavy traffic in people and goods.

Xinhua said the quake-prone region has been hit by more than 1,000 minor tremors over the past two months.

The Myanmar Meteorological Department released a statement saying a quake had hit some 230 miles northeast of Mandalay, the country's second-largest city.

The statement did not mention injuries, damage or the specific area of Myanmar most affected by the quake. Authorities in the tightly ruled country tend not to immediately discuss the effects of natural disasters.

Much of the area on the Myanmar side been under the control of various armed ethnic groups, who have battled the Myanmar military to remain free from central government control.

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