, BEIJING, Sept 7 – At least 20 people were killed when a series of earthquakes, one of them measuring magnitude 5.7, struck southwest China on Friday, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Television footage showed hundreds of people gathered on the streets in the town of Yiliang, which appeared to have been worst hit, and streets strewn with fallen bricks and rocks.
The largest quake struck on the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces at around 11am (0300 GMT) at a depth of 14 kilometres (nine miles), the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the China Earthquake Networks Centre.
The US Geological Survey put its magnitude at 5.6 and said it struck at a depth of 10 kilometres.
Xinhua said 20,000 houses had collapsed or been damaged. An official reached by telephone in Guizhou’s Weining county told AFP no casualties had been reported there.
Local residents described how people ran out of buildings screaming as the quake hit.
“I was walking on the street when I suddenly felt the ground shaking beneath me. People started rushing outside screaming, it still scares me to think of it now,” posted one on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter.
Another Weibo user who was driving when the quake hit said he felt the road shake beneath him and struggled to keep hold of the steering wheel.
Photographs posted online showed streets strewn with debris from damaged buildings.
The largest quake, which was also felt in neighbouring Sichuan Province, was followed by several other tremors.
Southwest China is prone to quakes. In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude quake rocked Sichuan and parts of neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, killing tens of thousands and flattening swathes of the province.