A powerful magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck China’s remote Gansu province at midnight on Monday, killing at least 127 and injuring more than 700 people.
Relief and rescue teams have been facing challenges as roads and public infrastructures have been damaged, with such subzero temperatures further adding to the problem.
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Here’s what to know about the event and current situation on the ground:
When did the quake strike and where?
- At 23:59pm (15:59 GMT) on Monday, the earthquake hit Jishishan in the northwestern Gansu province, causing people to rush out of their homes out in the cold weather. Initial tremors lasted around 20 seconds.
- Its tremors were felt as far away as 570km (354 miles) in Xi’an, northern Shaanxi province, while casualties also occurred in Haidong city of neighbouring Qinghai province, some 115km (71 miles) away.
- The epicentre of the quake Jishishan County and neighbouring areas are still reeling from the aftereffects of the quake.
- Emergency teams worked through the night to rescue people from the rubble but their efforts were hampered by several aftershocks, Al Jazeera correspondent Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said.
- Nearly 5,000 houses have been damaged to “varying degrees” while power and water supplies were also disrupted in some villages, according to state media.
- The magnitude of the quake was 5.9 according to the United States Geological Survey, while the the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said it was 6.1. But Chinese authorities put it at 6.2. It occurred at a depth of 35km (22 miles).
What do we know about the region hit by the earthquake?
The earthquake hit the mountainous border region between Gansu and Qinghai provinces, which lies on the east of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, a tectonically active area, making earthquakes common in the region.
Gansu has a population of about 26 million and in 2022, it ranked 27th out of 31 Chinese provinces and municipalities in terms of GDP size.
The rural Jishishan is almost 90km (56 miles) southwest of Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou.
What do we know about casualties so far?
State broadcaster CCTV has reported that 113 people were confirmed dead in Gansu, with an additional 536 injured. In Qinghai, CCTV reported that 14 people were killed and 198 injured.
The death toll is the highest recorded in China since 2014, when an earthquake killed 617 people and devastated southwest China’s Yunnan province.
Is Gansu safe now? What is the latest on rescue operations?
Rescue efforts are still under way and people have been advised against going to affected areas to prevent traffic jams.
Subzero temperatures and roads that are either damaged by the quake or inundated with snow have made it difficult to carry out rescue operations. Overnight temperature on Tuesday dropped to as low as -13 degrees Celsius (8.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the China Meteorological Administration.
The quake has also wrecked infrastructure and triggered landslides in the mountainous region.
People in affected areas have been given essential supplies such as drinking water, blankets, tents, stoves and instant noodles.
What are the challenges facing rescue efforts?
Emergency vehicles with rescue workers have been driving along snow-lined highways to carry out relief efforts while satellites are monitoring affected areas.
Approximately 1,500 firefighters were deployed while another 1,500 are on standby, according to state media. Additionally, 300 officers and soldiers were mobilised for disaster relief.
China’s ministries of finance and emergency management have allocated 200 million RMB in emergency relief funds, according to state media. The ministries of finance and emergency management have allocated 200 million yuan ($28m) in emergency relief funds, according to state media.
Almost 14,700 students and teachers from all 15 boarding schools in Jishishan County have been evacuated, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “all-out efforts” in search and rescue.
The country’s arch-foe, Taiwan, expressed condolences and also offered help.
“We pray that all those affected receive the aid they need, and we hope for a swift recovery. Taiwan stands ready to offer assistance in the disaster response effort,” said Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
The interim prime minister of Pakistan, a Chinese ally, also said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the quake in a post to X on Tuesday.
Deeply saddened to learn about the loss of precious lives due to the earthquake in Gansu province in China. Our sympathies are with our Chinese brothers and sisters in this hour of grief.
— Anwaar ul Haq Kakar (@anwaar_kakar) December 19, 2023