CHENGDU, Aug. 9 — A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck a remote area in southwest China’s Sichuan Province Tuesday night, leaving seven people dead and 88 injured, including 21 seriously, by 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
At least five of the dead were visitors to the popular tourist destination of Jiuzhaigou in the epicenter of Zhangzha town, Jiuzhaigou County. The information office of the provincial government did not elaborate on the identities of the additional two deaths when releasing the latest death toll update.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all-out efforts to rapidly organize relief work and rescue the injured people after the quake. Premier Li Keqiang also urged local authorities to go all out in relief and monitoring work. The earthquake jolted Jiuzhaigou County at 9:19 p.m. Tuesday (Beijing Time), and the epicenter was monitored at 33.2 degrees north latitude and 103.82 degrees east longitude.
The quake struck at a depth of 20 km, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC). Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, is a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations. More than 34,000 people visited the tourist attraction on Tuesday. “Now it is the peak travel season and there is a large number of tourists in the scenic area,” said Ye Zhi, a villager in Zhangzha.
“The tourists were in panic when the quake struck and there were also stones falling down the mountain.” Fearing risks from the complicated terrain, tourists and residents have been led to large open spaces for safety, said Ye. To avoid potential further deaths and injuries, the scenic area stopped accepting tourists.
A landslide in the tourist site left more than 100 visitors trapped, but no deaths or injuries were reported among them. Chengdu Overseas Tourism Co., Ltd. had 30 Japanese visitors in four tour groups in Jiuzhaigou. All of them had been reached and there were no injuries, the information office said. Sangey, a worker at the popular Jiuzhaigou tourist site, told Xinhua on telephone that some houses in the scenic area collapsed or cracked in wake of the powerful quake and authorities were organizing young people to help evacuate residents.
There were reported house collapses in towns like Heihe, Shuanghe and Anle. 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 epicenter, and many residents rushed out of buildings.
Li told Xinhua that he saw no buildings in the county seat collapsed. Yu Qian, a local taxation bureau official, said she felt strong tremor in her home on the fifth floor. She and her two children rushed away from their home. Yu said the quake cut off power in her neighborhood and disrupted telephone service linking the scenic area where some of her colleagues worked and lived.
“I was getting into a car at the time of the quake and it felt like a heavy-duty truck rumbling past,” said Liu Yanrong, a local township official. “Realizing it was an earthquake, there was no panic on the street as we had experienced the devastating Wenchuan quake,” said Liu. “There are currently few people on the street as most have gone back home for sleep after power was restored,” Liu told Xinhua after midnight.
The China Earthquake Administration and the Sichuan provincial government have activated the highest level-I emergency response procedures. Authorities have sent medical teams, rescuers as well as relief materials to the quake-stricken area where the population density is six people per square kilometer. The quake also disrupted railway services.
The Sichuan railway bureau suspended 14 trains. Power, communication and water supply in the county seat have basically recovered. The quake was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu about 300 km south of the epicenter, and other regions in the neighboring provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi.
The China Earthquake Administration said 107 aftershocks had been detected as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and there are possibilities of quakes around 6-magnitude in the coming days. Sichuan is a quake-prone region. In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan and killed more than 80,000 people. In 2013, a 7.0-magnitude quake hit Lushan, killing 196.