SICHUAN ROCKED BY MASSIVE QUAKE
19 killed in 7-magnitude tremblor as memories of 2008 catastrophe come back
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