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Earthquakes kill dozens in southwest China

By David Pierson, Los Angeles Times –

BEIJING — At least 50 people were killed after a pair of earthquakes jolted a mountainous region of southwestern China on Friday, damaging thousands of buildings and forcing scores of residents from their homes, the official New China News Agency said.

The first earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.7, shook the border region of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces at 11:19 a.m. local time. An hour later, a second quake struck, measuring 5.6.

The temblors destroyed or damaged 20,000 homes and injured 150 people in the largely impoverished, rural area. State media reported that 100,000 people had been evacuated.

A local official in Yunnan’s Yiliang, the worst hit county, told the Associated Press that many homes had collapsed.

“The casualty number is still being compiled,” said the official, who declined to give his name. “I don’t know what (it) was like for the other towns, but my town got hit badly.”

Building standards remain a sensitive subject in China’s countryside. In 2008, central Sichuan province was devastated by a major earthquake that killed nearly 90,000 people. Shoddy construction in the underdeveloped disaster zone was blamed for the high death toll.

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