19 killed in 7-mag­ni­tude trem­blor as mem­o­ries of 2008 catas­tro­phe come back

New Straits Times - - World -

A7.0-MAG­NI­TUDE earth­quake struck a re­mote, moun­tain­ous part of the coun­try’s south­west­ern prov­ince of Sichuan yes­ter­day, killing 19 peo­ple, in­clud­ing eight tourists, and in­jur­ing 247.

The quake hit a sparsely pop­u­lated area 200km north­west of Guangyuan city on Tues­day at a depth of 10km, the United States Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said.

It was also close to the Ji­uzhaigou nature re­serve, a tourist des­ti­na­tion. The na­tional park is a Unesco World Her­itage Site famed for its karst rock for­ma­tions, wa­ter­falls and lakes. It is the peak of the sum­mer school hol­i­day sea­son in the coun­try.

A sep­a­rate 6.6-mag­ni­tude earth­quake also hit a re­mote area in the far north­west­ern re­gion of Xin­jiang, more than 2,000km away, the Chi­nese earth­quake ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

The Peo­ple’s Daily said 32 peo­ple were in­jured in the Xin­jiang quake and its epi­cen­tre was in Jinghe county, 100km from the bor­der with Kaza­khstan.

The Sichuan gov­ern­ment said res­cuers were evac­u­at­ing tourists and res­i­dents who had been cut off by land­slides. It added that 19 peo­ple had been killed, but most of the in­jured were not se­ri­ously hurt. The dead in­cluded eight tourists, two res­i­dents and nine uniden­ti­fied vic­tims.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment added that 45,000 tourists had been evac­u­ated from the quake zone, with 1,000 more wait­ing to leave.

A few dozen tourists were camped out at Ji­uzhaigou air­port. The air­port was open and peo­ple were evac­u­ated by air.

A trav­eller with a young daugh­ter, who gave his name as Li, said he was in his ho­tel when the earth­quake hit.

“The walls and floor shook. Some things fell off the ta­ble.” Some peo­ple were in­jured in the ho­tel but most were fine.

“The res­cue ser­vices showed up quickly and gave us water and things to eat,” Li said, ad­ding that he re­ceived pri­or­ity in evac­u­a­tion be­cause he had a child.

“At first, the road was blocked, but they had cleared a lane this morn­ing for am­bu­lances.”

A French man and a Canadian woman suf­fered light in­juries. All 341 Taiwan tourists in 19 tour groups were safe, the gov­ern­ment of the self-ruled is­land said.

The Sichuan gov­ern­ment dis­missed as overblown ear­lier fears that part of a ho­tel had col­lapsed, say­ing the dam­age was mi­nor and ev­ery­one was evac­u­ated safely.

The Sichuan earth­quake ad­min­is­tra­tion, which also as­sessed the quake at 7.0 mag­ni­tude, said its epi­cen­tre was in Ngawa pre­fec­ture, pop­u­lated chiefly by Ti­betans, many of whom were no­madic herders. The area was rat­tled by af­ter­shocks yes­ter­day.

It evoked mem­o­ries of a mas­sive 8.0-mag­ni­tude earth­quake that dev­as­tated wide ar­eas of the same re­gion in 2008, leav­ing 87,000 peo­ple dead or miss­ing.

“I was also in Ji­uzhaigou in 2008 dur­ing the last big quake, so I knew what it was. This felt even stronger,” lo­cal restau­rant owner Tang Sesh­eng said.

“Peo­ple didn’t dare grab anything like money or clothes — we just all ran out­side right away.”

Shak­ing was felt in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, Chengdu, and as far away as Xian, home of the fa­mous ter­ra­cotta war­rior fig­ures.

Im­ages on so­cial me­dia or in state news out­lets showed cars and buses tossed into ravines or crushed by gi­ant boul­ders jolted loose from sur­round­ing hills, and res­cue per­son­nel comb­ing through rub­ble for vic­tims.

Aerial footage broad­cast by Xin­hua news agency showed pic­turesque green-forested moun­tains scarred by huge gouges from gi­ant land­slides that sent clouds of dust into the air.

Some Singaporeans were af­fected, ac­cord­ing to the Sin­ga­pore For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry.

“The Sin­ga­pore Con­sulateGen­eral in Chengdu has reached out to e-regis­tered Singaporeans in af­fected ar­eas. We have as­cer­tained that all e-regis­tered Singaporeans in Ji­uzhaigou are safe,” a spokesman said. Agen­cies

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