Three people were killed and dozens injured when a shallow earthquake struck southwestern China yesterday, triggering the second-highest level of emergency response by rescuers in Sichuan Province.
The quake struck Luxian County before dawn yesterday about 120km southwest of the sprawling megacity of Chongqing, which along with the surrounding area is home to about 30 million people.
Rescue workers rushed to lift people from beneath rubble, moving them out of damaged buildings on stretchers, footage taken by the Sichuan Fire Brigade showed.
Dozens of houses in Luxian were reduced to rubble and many others were damaged. Local media published images of collapsed ceilings in a hospital, as residents milled around in the streets after being told not to return indoors.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) put the magnitude of the quake at 5.4, but the China Earthquake Networks Center measured it at magnitude 6.0. Both put it at a shallow depth of 10km.
Luxian authorities said that the seismic event left “three dead, three seriously injured and 57 slightly injured.”
At least 10,000 people have been moved into emergency shelters, the local government said.
Live footage from Luxian by China Central Television showed workers climbing up ladders in pouring rain to remove hazardous debris hanging off buildings, including half-broken panes of glass.
Students left their dormitories in the dark earlier yesterday, clutching umbrellas and wearing backpacks, images taken by the Sichuan Daily showed.
Authorities downplayed the immediate threat of a larger aftershock.
“It is unlikely there will be a larger earthquake in the area in the near future, but aftershocks will continue for some time,” Sichuan Earthquake Administration Deputy Director Du Bin (杜斌) told reporters.
China Global Television Network shared security camera footage showing TVs and refrigerators shaking on the walls of houses as the quake struck, as ornaments smashed onto floors and cracks ran through buildings.
Bricks were strewn across roads and trees felled in some areas, the images showed.
The USGS said in a preliminary assessment that “significant damage is likely and the disaster is potentially widespread.”
Multiple electricity lines were disrupted and 62,000 households were hit by power cuts after the earthquake, the local government in Sichuan wrote on Sina Weibo.
Traffic on highways passing through the area has been rerouted to make way for emergency vehicles and to avoid damaged roads, the local government said.
A magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008 left 87,000 people dead or missing.
Among them were thousands of children, killed when poorly constructed school buildings collapsed, but the government failed to release an exact number of dead as the issue took on a political dimension.
Law enforcement detained human rights advocates who attempted to count the number of children who had died and mark the buildings that collapsed amid suspicions of poor construction.
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