BEIJING – A military exercise in southern China set off mass panic among local residents who thought an earthquake had struck with about 100,000 people fleeing their homes, state media reported Saturday.
Frightened residents slept outdoors following the live-fire exercise Wednesday by an air force brigade near the city of Hengyang in Hunan province, the Xinhua News Agency said.
Pressure waves from exploding bombs shook homes and rattled windows, and rumors of an earthquake spread quickly by phone and over the Internet, the report said.
Earthquake fears spread throughout China after last May's massive temblor in Sichuan province that left about 90,000 people dead or missing. The 7.9 magnitude quake rocked buildings in Beijing and other cities thousands of miles from the epicenter.
"Apparently, the residents are more vigilant after the strong earthquake hitting Sichuan province last May," Xinhua quoted local official Liu Xinghua as saying.
Notices were issued by local governments on Thursday reassuring people that no earthquake had occurred, Xinhua said. Liu said he worked until 3 a.m. on Friday trying to persuade villagers to go back home, but "many of them still feel unsafe."