August 31, 2008 / 3:27 AM / 9 years ago

China quake damages more than 180,000 homes, 27 dead

<p>Firemen try to dig out the body of Chen Guangyou, 53, from the debris of a collapsed house after an earthquake hit Lixi town of Huili County, Sichuan province, August 31, 2008.Stringer</p>

BEIJING (Reuters) - An earthquake that hit southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces has killed 27 people, damaged or destroyed more than 180,000 homes and affected at least 800,000 residents, state media said on Sunday.

The epicenter of Saturday's quake, which struck around 4:30 p.m. (3:30 a.m. EDT), was about 20 miles southeast of Panzhihua, near Sichuan's border with Yunnan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was about 6 miles deep.

The USGS put the magnitude of the quake at 5.7, while China's official Xinhua news agency said it measured 6.1.

A 5.6-magnitude aftershock hit the same area 24 hours later, the USGS said on Sunday. There were no immediate reports of further damage.

Xinhua said Saturday's quake had injured more than 350 people, and three more were missing in addition to the 27 already confirmed dead.

<p>A resident walks past a collapsed house after an earthquake hit Lixi town in Huili County, Sichuan province, August 31, 2008.Stringer</p>

"More than 800,000 people were affected by the disaster. About 40,000 were evacuated to safe places," it said. "In addition, around 180,000 houses were destroyed. Three large bridges in Sichuan's Panzhihua city, the epicenter of the quake, were damaged. Cracks were found in three reservoirs."

It added that 656 schools had also been damaged and that heavy rain and difficult terrain were hampering rescue efforts, with mobile telephone communications patchy.

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State media showed pictures of houses with large cracks in their sides, broken tiles on the road and people receiving medical attention under tents.

But state television said that operations at the Panzhihua steel group, one of western China's largest steel makers, had only been slightly affected, without providing further details.

The government was rushing disaster relief to the affected areas, including thousands of tents and blankets and tonnes of food and water, Xinhua said.

Parts of Sichuan province were devastated by an earthquake that killed about 70,000 people in May. The province, known for its pandas and fiery cuisine, has struggled to rebuild after the disaster, which left 10 million people homeless.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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