An earthquake has killed at least seven people and injured nearly 90 more in China’s south-western province of Sichuan, officials say.
The 6.5-magnitude quake struck at 9.20pm local time in the sparsely-populated north of Sichuan, at a depth of 10km, the US Geological Survey said.
Photos showed damage to buildings, including a hotel, in Jiuzhaigou, home to one of China’s most famous nature reserves and a Unesco World Heritage site.
State television said seven people had been killed and 88 were injured, 21 of them seriously. The official People’s Daily said five of the dead were tourists.
Some reports suggest the death toll could be much higher. The epicentre was close to an area popular with domestic tourists.
Sichuan’s government added that 100 tourists had been trapped by a landslide, but that there were no reports of any deaths or injuries amongst them yet.
The Sichuan fire service said the reception area in a hotel had collapsed, trapping some people, but that 2800 people had already been safely evacuated from the building.
State television said another tourist had been pulled out alive from rubble in a different part of Jiuzhaigou.
A restaurant owner in the town said this quake felt stronger than the 2008 tremor, though there is no suggestion yet that the death toll could reach anywhere near the levels caused by that disaster – which killed 70,000 people.
Tang Sesheng told the AFP news agency that many people had fled buildings in Jiuzhaigou county and were taking refuge in the main square.
“People didn’t dare grab anything like money or clothes – we just all ran outside right away,” she said.
‘Shocked and scared’
Gwendolyn Pang of the Red Cross Society of China said it would take time to learn the extent of the damage and number of casualties.
“Communications lines and electricity are disrupted and people are no doubt shocked and scared,” she said.
Rescuers search through rubble in the town of Jiuzhaigou after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan province, China Photo: AFP
China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction, quoted by AFP news agency, said as many as 100 people may have been killed and 130,000 homes damaged.
President Xi Jinping called for “all-out efforts to rapidly organise relief work and rescue the injured people”, state news agency Xinhua reports, and fire officers and soldiers were being deployed from nearby areas.
While there was no confirmation of their nationalities, Jiuzhaigou is far more popular with Chinese tourists than foreigners, meaning the dead were likely to be Chinese.
The area is frequently struck by earthquakes.
State television said electricity had now largely been restored to the affected areas and the military was also sending rescuers to help with relief efforts. Jiuzhaigou airport was operating as normal after the runway was checked for damage, the report added.
The Sichuan government said on one of its official social media sites that more than 38,000 tourists were currently visiting Jiuzhaigou.
Shaking was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu and as far away as Xian, home of the famous Terracotta Warrior figures, according to users of Chinese social media.
– BBC – Reuters