Beijing -

At least five people died and about 20 were injured after two earthquakes measuring 5.7 and 5.6 on the Richter scale hit a mountainous area of south-western China within an hour on Friday.

The first 5.7-magnitude tremor was felt across a wide area of neighbouring Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces at 11.19am (5.19am SA time), the China Earthquake Administration reported on its website.

A 5.6-magnitude quake with an almost identical epicentre hit the same area at 12.16pm.

The epicentre of the quakes was about 15km from Yiliang county town in Yunnan province, the administration said.

An official in Yiliang told dpa by telephone that at least five people had died and more than 20 were injured in the county, according to a “preliminary estimate.”

The county seismological bureau reported that some houses in Yiliang had collapsed, while the official Xinhua news agency said about 20 000 houses were damaged or had collapsed.

The quakes also caused landslides and cut an electric power line in Yiliang, but all main roads remained passable, the seismological bureau said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in other areas of Yunnan or in the two bordering provinces.

Xinhua said many people had rushed outdoors after the first quake shook buildings in Yunnan's Zhaotong city, which administers Yiliang and is about 30km from the epicentre.

The tremors were also felt in Leshan city in Sichuan province, the agency quoted a local resident as saying.

Two aftershocks measuring 3.2 and 4.4 on the Richter scale hit the area early Friday afternoon. - Sapa-dpa