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Earthquake hits China, killing hundreds

1,881 hurt; 12,000 houses toppled

Chinese troops were dispatched to help after an earthquake in Yunnan.

AFP/Getty Images

Chinese troops were dispatched to help after an earthquake in Yunnan.

BEIJING — A strong earthquake in southern China’s Yunnan province toppled thousands of homes on Sunday, killing at least 381 people and injuring more than 1,800.

About 12,000 homes collapsed in Ludian, a densely populated county about 280 miles northeast of Yunnan’s capital, Kunming, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. With dozens of people reported missing, the death toll was expected to rise.

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The magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. at a depth of 6 miles, according to the US Geological Survey. Its epicenter was in Longtoushan township, 14 miles southwest of Zhaotong, the Ludian county seat.

Ma Liya, a resident of Zhaotong, told Xinhua that the streets were like a ‘‘battlefield after bombardment.’’ She said the quake was far worse than one that struck the area in 2012 and killed 81 people.

‘‘I have never felt such strong tremors before,’’ Ma said. “What I can see are all ruins.’’

Xinhua said at least 381 people were killed, citing rescuers, with 1,881 injured. Most of the deaths were in Zhaotong, Xinhua said. Another 10 people were killed in Quijing City.

News reports said rescuers were still trying to reach victims in more remote towns Sunday night.

Photos on Weibo, China’s social media site, showed rescuers searching through flattened buildings.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered ‘‘his condolences to the Chinese government and the families of those killed,’’ according to a statement from his office. The statement said the UN is ready to ‘‘lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs’’ and ‘‘to mobilize any international support needed.’’

Many of the homes that collapsed in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were old and made of brick, Xinhua said, adding that electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county.

The mountainous region is largely agricultural and prone to earthquakes.

About 2,500 troops have been dispatched to the region, Xinhua said. The Red Cross Society of China allocated quilts, jackets, and tents for those made homeless, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macau, and Sichuan province also sent supplies.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the quake was the strongest to hit Yunnan in 14 years.

In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

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