3 quakes jolt Jilin province

Updated: 2013-11-24 07:44

By Han Junhong in Songyuan, Jilin, and Xu Wei in Beijing(China Daily)

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No deaths, but tens of thousands of homes damaged as cold weather hits

Three earthquakes of the respective magnitudes of 5.3, 5.8 and 5.0 hit Jilin province's Songyuan city between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, causing extensive damage to houses and leaving victims vulnerable to severe cold.

No casualties were reported. But the temblors destroyed 400 houses and severely damaged more than 16,000. Another 40,000 were mildly damaged.

The disasters have forced 45,000 people to evacuate their dwellings, the city government's news office reported.

The first quake struck at 4:18 pm on Friday. The following two respectively occurred at 6 am and 6:30 am on Saturday.

The epicenter was at the juncture of the Qian Gorlos Mongolian autonomous county and Qian'an county in Songyuan.

With temperatures as low as -12 C and meteorological authorities forecasting heavy blizzards in the next two days, residents are concerned about the cold.

Songyuan has been hit by a string of earthquakes from Oct 31. Two tremors of magnitudes 5.5 and 5.0 hit the city that day, injuring 12.

The China Earthquake Networks Center had since monitored 17 temblors of at least magnitude-3 in the area as of Saturday.

Hou Yuyuan, the owner of a hotpot restaurant in Chaganhua township - the epicenter of Saturday's quakes - said he was asleep when the disasters struck.

"It feels like you're drunk and can't tell which direction is which," he said.

All shops and eateries in the township, including Hou's, were forced to close. The disaster fractured his house's walls and shattered its windows, rendering it hazardous.

Hou said on Saturday afternoon that he still had no clue where to spend the night. Local authorities are yet to relocate his family.

Songyuan's flat topography has prevented consequential disasters like landslides.

Such temporary shelters as tents have been set up in many villages. But residents are worried they are not warm enough to protect them during the extreme nighttime cold.

Li Lanlan, a 35-year-old resident of Xiaocheng village in Chaganhua township, moved into the temporary shelter after the earthquakes this morning left her house too dangerous to live in.

Her family must rely on an electric blanket for warmth.

The tremors' frequency has caused extreme stress for residents, who must remain constantly alert.

"We would flee from the shelter if we heard any sound - even a truck driving past," said Hou, the restaurant owner. "I feel like I have mental illness now."

Jilin's provincial news office said the quakes have affected another five cities and counties, and caused 474.1 million yuan ($77.8 million) in direct economic losses.

Another 4.6-magnitude earthquake jolted Shandong province's Laizhou on Saturday afternoon, but no casualties have been reported, local authorities said.

Zhao Ruixue in Jinan contributed to this story.

3 quakes jolt Jilin province

(China Daily 11/24/2013 page2)