Rescuers carry an injuried child on a stretcher after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit the area in Ludian county in Zhaotong.

Beijing - A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck southwestern China on Sunday, killing at least 26 people in a remote mountainous area of Yunnan province, causing some buildings to collapse including a school.

The US Geological Survey said the quake registered at a shallow depth of less than 1 mile. Chinese state media said was felt most strongly Yunnan, as well as in the neighbouring provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan.

State television said on its microblog that the epicentre was in Yunnan's Ludian county, where the initial deaths were reported. There were also around 80 injuries, including a female student buried in rubble at a school, it added.

Communications have been seriously affected and rescuers are rushing to the scene, the report said.

Pictures posted online by state media showed troops stretchering people away, and bricks which had fallen off buildings damaging cars.

China is frequently struck by quakes in this part of the country. A quake in Sichuan in 2008 killed almost 70 000 people. - Reuters