Quakes hit southwestern China, killing at least 80

Updated 10:20 PM EDT, Fri September 7, 2012

Story highlights

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits stricken areas

The quakes hit near the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces in southwest China

Their magnitudes range between 4.8 and 5.6, the U.S. Geological Survey says

More than 430,000 houses are damaged and 6,600 destroyed, state media reports

(CNN) —  

The death toll from earthquakes that rocked southwest China rose to 80 on Saturday, after the tremors destroyed roads and communication lines, and forced tens of thousands of evacuations, state media reported.

More than 6,600 homes were destroyed and about 430,000 damaged in Friday’s quakes, Xinhua said.

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Premier Wen Jiabao, who will direct rescue efforts, inspected stricken areas Saturday and visited the injured.

President Hu Jintao called for immediate relief efforts, according to China Central Television.

Xinhua reported that 100,000 people have been evacuated and another 100,000 are in need of relocation.

Initial estimates put the “direct economic losses” from the tremors at more than half a billion dollars, the news agency said.

Xinhua described the mountainous area hit hard by the quakes as poverty-stricken. It said telecommunications and traffic infrastructure were seriously damaged.

The four earthquakes struck near the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Their magnitudes ranged between 4.8 and 5.6, according to the U.S. agency.

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The first quake took place near the border between Yiliang County in Yunnan and Weining County in Guizhou, Xinhua said.

All four quakes struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles).

The southwestern region of China is prone to earthquakes. In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 quake in Sichuan province caused widespread devastation, killing at least 69,000 people.

CNN’s Steven Jiang contributed to this report.