Wednesday 25 April 2018

Tourists among 13 killed in China earthquake

The area is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in northern Sichuan province
The area is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in northern Sichuan province

Gillian Wong

A strong earthquake has hit a mountainous region in south-western China near a famous national park, killing 13 people, injuring 175 others and crippling power and phone networks.

At least five of the dead were tourists, China's official Xinhua News Agency said, and at least 28 people had serious injuries, according to the Aba regional government in Sichuan province.

President Xi Jinping called for rapid efforts to respond to the quake and rescue the injured, while authorities sent medical teams, rescuers and other resources.

The quake, which struck at about 9.20pm on Tuesday, hit a region bordered by the provinces of Sichuan and Gansu.

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 karst formations.

The US Geological Survey said it was magnitude 6.5 and just 5.5 miles deep, while the China Earthquake Networks Centre measured the earthquake at magnitude 7.0 and said it struck at a depth of 12 miles.

Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.

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)

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

Xinhua said strong tremors could be felt in Chengdu and the Sichuan provincial government's news website said that after the quake struck, a number of train services to Chengdu and other cities were suspended.

Jiuzhaigou county had a massive power cut following the quake and officials were being sent to the town of Zhangzha, closest to the quake's epicentre.

"The tremors were very strong," said a woman in Jiuzhaigou town who gave only her surname, Wang, and said she worked for a travel company.

She said the damage in the town centre seemed minimal other than the suspension of electricity.

"People from other regions are a pretty frightened," she said.

Read More: Seven killed by earthquake in south-western China

Xinhua said more than 30,000 tourists at Jiuzhaigou were relocated to safety with help from tour buses and private vehicles.

Yu Qian, a local taxation bureau official, told Xinhua that she felt strong shaking that sent her and her two children rushing from their home on the fifth floor.

She said the quake cut off power in her neighbourhood and disrupted telephone services.

"I was getting into a car at the time of the quake, and it felt like a heavy-duty truck roaring past," said Liu Yanrong, a local township official, said.

Xinhua cited a worker at the Jiuzhaigou park named Sangey as saying that some houses in the tourist site collapsed or cracked following the quake and that authorities were organising evacuations of residents.

Images on Chinese social media sites showed rocks scattered on roads and people running out of bars and cafes in Jiuzhaigou town on to the street.

A report on the news site's official microblog also cited Zhao Wei, the party secretary of the Communist Youth League's Jiuzhaigou division, as saying some telephone communications networks were down, making it difficult to determine the scale of the damage.

On Wednesday morning, another strong earthquake struck in far northwestern China, some 1,360 miles away.

It was measured at magnitude 6.3 by USGS and 6.6 by China's agency and was in a sparsely populated area of the Xinjiang region near the Kazakhstan border. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Earthquakes are common in China's west, although the low population density there often means casualties are low. China's deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude-7.9 temblor, struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

Press Association

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