A government relief official in Yao'an County, a mountainous area of remote Yunnan province, told Agence France-Presse one person had died and 328 had been injured. The US Geological Survey said the 5.7-magnitude quake struck at 11:19 GMT Thursday at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers in Yunnan province.
"I was harvesting tobacco leaves... when the quake hit. I felt dizzy and saw villagers falling over. Many houses collapsed," Dong Zhaofu, a farmer in Yao'an county told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
A 50-year-old woman was buried in the debris of collapsed houses and died later in hospital from serious blood loss, Xinhua said, citing local officials. The quake was centered on a relatively sparsely populated area 98 kilometers east-northeast of the tourist city of Dali. Several aftershocks followed, driving residents outdoors into the warm night for fear of greater damage, Xinhua said. The USGS reported a 5.0-magnitude aftershock just after 09:00 GMT on Friday.
More than 18,000 houses collapsed and over 75,000 others were damaged in six counties of Yunnan, with 30 people suffering serious injuries, according to Xinhua which cited local officials.
Over 1,000 soldiers and policemen, including about 300 from neighboring Sichuan province, were helping residents to safety, Xinhua said, adding that provincial authorities were sending tents, quilts and other aid supplies.
It said more than 400,000 people in the quake zone needed to be evacuated or relocated. Yunnan governor Qin Guangrong ordered that 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) be allocated for disaster relief, the agency said.
Emergency officials estimate damage could cost the local economy 2.5 billion yuan, it reported. Last year in Sichuan, nearly 87,000 people were left dead or missing when a 8.0-magnitude earthquake shook the province in China's southwest. The deadliest earthquake to strike China in over 30 years flattened entire cities and towns, destroying schools, hospitals, homes, and buildings in nearly 50,000 villages.