Deaths reported as quake hits China’s Sichuan province

At least 19 people dead and 247 injured after a magnitude seven earthquake struck the country’s southwest region.

More than 600 fire officers and soldiers have been deployed [Stringer/AFP]

Nineteen people, including six tourists, were killed and 247 injured when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part Sichuan in China’s southwest, the provincial government and official media said on Wednesday.

The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200 km northwest of the city of Guangyuan late on Tuesday at a depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said. It was also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination.

A separate quake with a magnitude of 6.6 struck a remote part of China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang, more than 2,000 km away, on Wednesday morning, the Chinese earthquake administration said. There were no immediate reports of casualties there.

The Sichuan government said 100 tourists had been trapped by a landslide following Tuesday’s quake. Six tourists were among those killed, according to the official China News Service.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said a total of 13 people had been killed, citing the provincial government, and that as many as 31,500 tourists had been evacuated from the quake zone.

More than 130,000 houses may be damaged, said China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction in a statement posted on its website, based on a preliminary analysis of the disaster.

Pictures on state-run social media sites showed some damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles having fallen from buildings and people rushing to safety.

The epicentre of the tremor was in Ngawa prefecture [CNS/Chen Yunhua via Reuters]
The epicentre of the tremor was in Ngawa prefecture [CNS/Chen Yunhua via Reuters]

State television cited a resident in a village near Jiuzhaigou as saying no buildings had collapsed where he was, but that there had been strong shaking and people had fled outdoors.

Restaurant owner Tang Sesheng fled her establishment in Jiuzhaigou town after she felt the earth moving under her.

“I was also in Jiuzhaigou in 2008 during the last big quake, so I knew what it was. This felt even stronger,” she told AFP news agency by phone.

She said people had come out of their homes to sit out in the town’s large public square, far from any tall structures, afraid to go back inside for fear that buildings might topple.

Many were also sitting in cars, thinking it safer.

“People didn’t dare grab anything like money or clothes – we just all ran outside right away.”

Electricity was cut off briefly, but was then restored, she said.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted a Jiuzhaigou tourism official as saying that some houses had collapsed or cracked and authorities were organising evacuations.

Tremors felt in Chengdu

Shaking was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu and as far away as Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, according to users of Chinese social media.

More than 600 fire officers and soldiers have been deployed, the People’s Daily newspaper said.

China is regularly hit by earthquakes, especially its mountainous western and southwestern regions.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said the earthquake struck close to a national park which is also a World Heritage Site.

“This happened in the same region where, in 2008, an earthquake struck killing 70,000 people,” he said.

“The area is very popular with tourists. It has snow-capped mountains, lakes and waterfalls.”

Earlier on Tuesday, a landslide triggered by heavy rains killed at least 24 people in a different, mountainous region of Sichuan to the south of Chengdu.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies