At least 175 people were killed, 1,400 injured and 181 others were missing after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake jolted southwest China's Yunnan province today causing widespread death and destruction.
The strong quake hit at 4:30 pm Beijing time (0830 GMT) at a depth of 12 kms with the epicentre in Longtoushan township, 23 kms southwest of the county seat of Ludian, Zhaotong City.
More than 120 residents were killed, over 180 were missing and 1,300 injured in Ludian County, according to the local government. It said more than 12,000 houses were toppled and 30,000 damaged.
Transportation, electricity and telecommunications have been cut off in the county.
The quake has also led to at least 30 deaths in Qiaojia County of Zhaotong and nearby Huize County of Qujing City, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Ma Hao, a college student who is volunteering for the rescue at Longtoushan Township, told Xinhua that he saw bodies buried in ruins and helped to carry more than 40 injured people out of the collapsed buildings.
"Honestly, it's such a shame that we had no time to take care of the bodies. We need to help those alive first," he said.
"I felt a strong jolt on my fifth-floor home and some small objects in my home fell off the shelves," said a resident in the county seat of Ludian.
Most people rushed out of buildings to the streets.
Electricity was cut, telecommunications services were affected and it was hard to reach people in Ludian by mobile phone, the resident said.
Another resident said it felt like "sailing a boat" when he was driving a car in the tremor.
Ma Liya, a resident in the county seat, told Xinhua via telephone that the streets were like a "battlefield after bombardment".
She added that the house of her neighbour, a new two-storey building, was toppled.
"It's so terrible. The aftermath is much much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago. I have never felt so strong tremors before. What I can see are all ruins," she said.
However, Ma is worrying more about the family of her cousin, who live in the epicentre site Longtoushan, as her calls to the families went unanswered.
"I just hope they are safe and sound. They didn't answer the calls," she said.
The quake toppled and cracked many buildings, particularly old ones and residential homes.
"Too many buildings were damaged and we are collecting data on deaths and injuries," said Chen Guoyong, head of the Longtoushan township, adding a rescue operation was underway.
The road leading to the township was damaged in a landslide before the quake and traffic has not resumed.
Zhaotong City has dispatched more than 300 police and firefighters to the quake-hit areas.
The province also sent 392 rescuers and 12 sniffer dogs.
The civil affairs authorities sent 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the area.
Ludian has a population of 265,900 in its seven townships.
Zhaotong, about 300 kms from Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is on the earthquake belt and has been occasionally jolted by quakes.
In September 2012, a 5.7-magnitude caused more than 80 deaths and injured more than 800 people.
In 1974, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the same place caused over 1,400 deaths.
More rains are forecast in the coming three days, according to the China Meteorological Administration.
Earlier today, a 5.0-magnitude earthquake jolted Xigatze Prefecture in Tibet close to the Indian and Nepal borders.
Xigatze is located close to the Arunachal Pradesh border.
The epicentre was monitored at a depth of 10 kms, the China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC) said.
Meanwhile, more than 2,500 officers and soldiers were today dispatched to join the disaster relief operation in the quake-hit southwestern Chinese county.
The Chengdu Military Area Command (CMAC) of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) started an emergency plan immediately after the quake.
So far over 2,500 officers and soldiers, including those in active service and reserve duty as well as militia have gone to join the quake relief, with some of them rushing to the quake-hit area, Xinhua reported.
PLA troops brought life detection instruments, excavating tools and other disaster relief equipment to the area.
The military also deployed medical and disease-control gear to the area, with surgical operating vehicles, field water purification vehicles and other equipment.
CMAC ordered its troops to put in more staff if necessary, and bring tents, food stuff, medicines and other materials to the quake-hit area.