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Monday 16 July 2018

19 killed as earthquake hits national park region in south-west China

Evacuated tourists outside a hotel following the earthquake in Ruo'ergai in south-western China's Sichuan province (Chinatopix/AP)
Evacuated tourists outside a hotel following the earthquake in Ruo'ergai in south-western China's Sichuan province (Chinatopix/AP)

Rescuers are searching for survivors of a powerful earthquake which killed at least 19 people and injured 247 in a mountainous region popular with tourists in south-western China.

Tuesday night's magnitude 6.5 quake also knocked out power and phone networks, complicating efforts to locate and evacuate survivors.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed footage of orange-suited rescuers finding one body and using detectors to search for survivors in the dark of night, carrying a girl to safety and leading other people along a rubble-strewn road.

President Xi Jinping called for rapid efforts to respond to the disaster, which struck a quake-prone region bordered by Sichuan and Gansu provinces.

The area is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and home to many Tibetan and other ethnic minority villages. It is also near Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and rock formations that attracts visitors from China and overseas.

At least five of the dead were tourists, China's official Xinhua News Agency said. Hong Kong's immigration department said one of the city's residents was missing in the quake.

Among the injured, 40 were listed in serious condition, according to the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture government in Sichuan.

A Canadian woman suffered a slight head injury and a Frenchman was wounded in both legs and needed surgery to remove stone fragments, according to Xinhua.

It said Frenchman Maxence Vallon, 18, was staying with his mother and brother at a hotel in Jiuzhaigou. They were seeking shelter outside "when a big stone fell and hit my brother right in the leg", said Romain Vallon, who studies in Beijing.

The dead included a performer in an arts group who had been performing in Jiuzhaigou when the quake struck.

According to the Legal Evening News, they were acting out a scene about a deadly 2008 earthquake that struck nearby and killed nearly 90,000 people. When the quake hit, the performers ran off the stage in terror and the audience thought the tremor was part of the show.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.5, striking at a shallow depth of 5.5 miles. The China Earthquake Networks Centre said the quake had at magnitude of 7.0 and a depth of 12 miles.

The epicentre was about 24 miles from the county seat of Jiuzhaigou, which has a population of around 80,000, and 177 miles from Chengdu, Sichuan's densely populated provincial capital, according to the Chinese quake centre.

Xinhua said more than 30,000 tourists visiting Jiuzhaigou were relocated to safer accommodations by buses and private vehicles.

On Wednesday morning, another strong earthquake struck in far north-western China, 1,360 miles from Jiuzhaigou, injuring three villagers whose home collapsed, Xinhua reported. That quake was measured at magnitude 6.3 by the USGS and 6.6 by China's agency and struck in a sparsely populated area of the Xinjiang region near the Kazakhstan border.


Press Association

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