An earthquake hit a remote part of southwest China’s Yunnan Province near the popular tourist area of Shangri-La yesterday, killing five people and injuring 24 others.
The quake, on the border with Sichuan Province, set off landslides, blocked roads, cut communications and toppled or damaged tens of thousands of homes in the mountainous area.
The Yunnan government put the death toll at five. At least 24 people were injured, the Xinhua news agency said.
Among the dead was a tourist bus driver whose vehicle was hit by falling rocks, said officials.
The 5.9-magnitude quake, which struck at 8:04am, centered on Yunnan’s Benzilan town. It was about 10 kilometers deep.
It toppled 600 homes and damaged more than 55,000, forcing some 9,200 residents to be relocated, Xinhua said.
China Central Television showed clouds of dust rising from landslides on mountains and pieces of broken cement that had fallen from buildings.
“During the quake, the swaying was relatively severe,” Liao Wencai, deputy Party secretary of Deqen, told Xinhua.
Benzilan is in Deqen County, 60 kilometers from Shangri-La county, named after the fictional mountain paradise in James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon.”
Local officials borrowed the name to attract more tourists to the area, which had around 7.6 million travellers last year.
Shangri-La itself was little affected, residents said.
“The building just shook a little and then everything returned to normal fairly fast,” an employee at a local hotel said.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs said it was sending tents, blankets and clothing to the areas that were most affected.
The government has closed off some scenic spots in the area, Xinhua said.
The earthquake was the second in the area in four days, following a 5.1-magnitude quake on Wednesday.
In July, twin quakes killed at least 95 people in China’s western Gansu Province.
A magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Sichuan Province killed about 200 people earlier this year, five years after almost 90,000 people were killed by a huge quake in the same province.