A powerful earthquake struck the steep hills of China's southwestern Sichuan province on Saturday, leaving at least 156 people dead and more than 5,500 injured, nearly five years after a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region.
Saturday's quake, while not as destructive as the one in 2008, toppled buildings, triggered landslides and disrupted phone and power connections in mountainous Lushan county. The village of Longmen was hit particularly hard, with authorities saying nearly all the buildings there had been destroyed in a frightening minute-long shaking.
Rescuers turned the square outside the Lushan County Hospital into a triage centre, where medical personnel bandaged bleeding victims, according to footage on China Central Television. Rescuers dynamited boulders that had fallen across roads to reach Longmen and other damaged areas lying farther up the mountain valleys, state media reported.
CCTV reported that at least 156 people had died. The government of Ya'an city, which administers Lushan, said in a statement that more than 2,600 people were injured, 330 of them severely.
The quake - measured by the China Earthquake Administration at magnitude-7.0 and by the U.S. Geological Survey at 6.6 - struck the steep hills of Lushan county shortly after 8am, when many people were at home, sleeping or having breakfast.
People in their underwear and wrapped in blankets ran into the streets of Ya'an and even the provincial capital of Chengdu, 70 miles east of Lushan, according to photos, video and accounts posted online.
Chengdu's airport shut down for about an hour before reopening, though many flights were cancelled or delayed, and its railway station halted dozens of scheduled train rides on Saturday, state media said.
Lushan reported the most deaths, 76, but there was concern that casualties in neighboring Baoxing county might have been under-reported because of inaccessibility after roads were blocked and power and phone services cut off.
As the region went into the first night after the quake, rain started to fall, slowing rescue work. Forecasts called for more rain in the next several days and the China Meteorological Administration warned of possible landslides and other geological disasters.
Tens of thousands of people moved into tents or cars, unable to return home or too afraid to go back as aftershocks continued to jolt the region.