Strong earthquake kills at least 100 in China

Beijing:  A 6.5-magnitude earthquake on late Tuesday night rattled Jiuzhaigou County in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province, killing at least five people and injuring 63 others. Citing a statement issued by the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the quake occurred around 9.19 PM (local time) and struck at a depth of 20-km.

However, according to China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction  at least 100 people may have died, based on 2010 census data of the mountainous, sparsely populated region. In a statement posted on its website, the commission said that over 130,000 houses may have been damaged in the earthquake.

State-run television confirmed that five people were killed and 63 others injured in the quake while officials say the toll could be much higher. The dead were all tourists, it said. The condition of 30 injured was serious.

At least 106 aftershocks were recorded as of 11 PM (local time), according to CENC.

A total of 610 fire officers and soldiers, and eight sniffer dogs were dispatched to the scene after the quake, Xinhua reported.

The China Earthquake Administration has activated level-I emergency response procedures following the earthquake.

China has a four-level earthquake emergency response system, with level-I being the top.

Work teams have been sent to the affected area to carry out emergency operations, the local administration said.

An employee at the Jiuzhaigou National Park said homes had collapsed in one of the valleys, and buildings were being evacuated, according to a report.The park said it had 38,799 visitors on Tuesday.

Photos posted on social media showed shattered windows, damaged walls and people standing in the street.

Sangey, a staff worker with the popular Jiuzhaigou tourist site, told Xinhua over telephone that some houses in the scenic spot collapsed and authorities are organising young people to help evacuate residents.

Li Changyong, head of the Jiuzhaigou county health and family planning bureau, said the quake was strongly felt in the county seat, 35 km from the epicentre, and many residents rushed outside their buildings.

Yu Qian, a local taxation bureau official, said she felt strong tremor in her home on the fifth floor.

Yu said the power was cut off in her neighbourhood and quake disrupted telephone service linking the scenic area where some of her colleagues worked and lived.

The quake was also strongly felt in the provincial capital Chengdu, about 300 km south of the epicentre.

Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, is a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations.