Over the weekend a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northwest Yunnan's Diqing Prefecture (迪庆州). Damage to roads and buildings in this area of the eastern Himalayan foothills was extensive. Rescue and relief efforts are ongoing and the provincial government has ordered a temporary halt to many public services.
The quake struck at 8am local time with its epicenter directly beneath the city of Benzilan (奔子栏). In an initial assessment of damages, local authorities reported 600 homes were destroyed and another 55,000 had suffered structural damage. Thousands have been forced to abandon their still-intact homes as a series of 300 aftershocks have followed the original temblor.
Somewhat confused initial reports claimed five people were killed in the earthquake. That number has since been revised downward to three — one of whom was a bus driver whose vehicle was crushed by falling rocks. In all, 40 people were injured, including 17 tourists who where trapped aboard buses but have since been rescued.
Four hours after the quake, Yunnan governor Li Jiheng (李纪恒) visited Shangri-la — formerly known as Zhongdian — to oversee relief work conducted by soldiers from the People's Liberation Army. He was accompanied by Yunnan vice-governor Yin Jianye (尹建业). Following their arrival it was announced the prefecture's 109 schools would suspend autumn terms indefinitely. Nearly 60,000 students were preparing to return to school today, but will now wait until the safety of their classrooms has been assessed.
Travellers in affected areas have been asked to leave until blocked roads are reopened and damaged telecommunication networks can be restored. Traffic along many highways, including State Road 214 (214国道), has been severely disrupted. Trucks carrying tents, blankets, drinking water and other relief supplies have also been hampered by several landslides.
Saturday's earthquake came just four days after a smaller, 5.1 magnitude tremor, struck the same area. While causing some damage, the quake on August 28 was relatively moderate and caused no injuries or fatalities.
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