Two 5.6 magnitude earthquakes hit southwestern China, killing at least 64 people and forcing tens of thousands of people from damaged homes.

The quakes struck near the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, the first one at 11.19am (4.19am Irish time) and the second one about 45 minutes later, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

About 150 people were injured and 20,000 homes were damaged, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Most of the victims were from Yiliang county, Yunnan province, near the epicentre of the quakes, which struck at a depth of 9km according to the USGS.

One person was reported to have been killed in nearby Zhaotong city.

Authorities moved more than 100,000 people from the area as a series of aftershocks struck. No deaths were reported in Guizhou province.

In 2008, about 87,600 people were killed in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit.

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake in April 2010 killed nearly 3,000 people in a remote part of western Qinghai province, devastating much of Yushu county, where many displaced by the disaster still live in tents.

Quakes with an epicentre less than 70km below the surface are considered shallow and can cause significant damage, even at lower magnitudes.