Chinese paramilitary police carry an earthquake victim in Zhaotong, in… (Associated Press )
BEIJING — At least 80 people were killed Friday when a pair of earthquakes jolted a mountainous region of southwestern China, triggering landslides, damaging thousands of buildings and forcing thousands of residents from their homes, the official New China News Agency said.
The first quake, a magnitude 5.7, shook the border region of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces at 11:19 a.m. An hour later, the second quake struck, a magnitude 5.6.
The temblors destroyed or damaged 20,000 homes and injured more than 700 people in the largely impoverished, rural area. State media reported that 100,000 people had been evacuated.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao toured the area Saturday to coordinate rescue efforts, state media said.
A local official in hard-hit Yiliang county, in Yunnan province, told the Associated Press that many homes had collapsed.
"The casualty number is still being compiled," said the official, who declined to give his name. "I don't know what [it] was like for the other towns, but my town got hit badly."
Gang Huangfu, the director of Yunnan's seismological bureau, told state media that homes and buildings in the region were not built to withstand the quakes.
Building standards remain a sensitive subject in China's countryside. In 2008, Sichuan province was devastated by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that killed nearly 90,000 people. Shoddy construction in the underdeveloped disaster zone was blamed for the high toll.