More than 30 people were killed and several others injured on Monday when a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook Luding county in southwest China’s Sichuan province, whose population is already reeling from a growing number of Covid-19 cases and an unprecedented drought.
The epicenter of the quake, which occurred at 12:25 p.m. local time, was monitored at 29.59 degrees north latitude and 102.08 degrees east longitude at a depth of 16 km, the China Earthquake Networks Center said as quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency. Press Agency.
The epicenter is 39 km from the county seat of Luding and there are several villages within a 5 km radius of the epicenter.
According to state media, local officials said more than 30 people had been killed and more than 30 others injured. Casualties were expected to increase as relief teams spread to the affected areas.
Most residents of Chengdu, which has a population of over 21 million, spent most of the day outside their homes as aftershocks continued to rock the region.
Infrastructure, including water, electricity, transport and telecommunications services, was also damaged.
“Sincere condolences to the lives lost in the devastating Sichuan earthquake on September 5 and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured,” the Indian Embassy tweeted.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered all rescue efforts to minimize casualties, stressing that saving lives should be seen as the primary task.
Xi stressed strengthening earthquake monitoring, safeguarding against secondary disasters and properly accommodating affected people.
While calling for greater efforts to ensure the safety of people’s lives and property, Xi asked the Ministry of Emergency Management and other departments to send teams to Sichuan to guide the relief operations and ordered the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police to actively assist local disaster relief efforts.
Premier Li Keqiang also urged a quick assessment of the situation, as well as all-out rescue and medical treatment efforts.
The Chinese Red Cross has launched a Level III emergency response following the earthquake, with the first batch of relief materials consisting of 320 tents, 2,200 relief packages, 1,200 quilts and 300 folding beds sent in the affected area.
The company also sent a task force there to help with relief and rescue work.
Sichuan Province has activated the second highest level of emergency response for the earthquake and more relief forces are rushing to the epicenter area.
The quake was felt in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, located 226 km from the epicenter. Photos and videos posted on Chinese social media show buildings shaking in Chengdu. Details of the damage are awaited.
Sichuan province is located next to Tibet. The Tibetan Plateau is known to be prone to strong earthquakes as it sits right where the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates meet, often colliding with tremendous force.
More than 69,000 people were killed when an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the province in 2008 and a magnitude 7 earthquake killed 200 in 2013.
Monday’s earthquake struck as the province grapples with the growing number of Covid-19 cases.
Chengdu was under instant lockdown due to an increasing number of cases. Residents have been asked to stay at home, with one person per household allowed to go out each day to buy basic necessities. Daily nucleic acid testing was also mandatory until Wednesday, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
More than 1,000 cases have been reported since mid-August in Chengdu alone, a southwestern transport hub of 21 million people. Sichuan reported 105 new symptomatic cases and another 80 asymptomatic infections on Monday.
The province is also reeling from unprecedented drought and heatwaves that have persisted across large swaths of China, with farmland left dry after a month without rainfall and little or no irrigation equipment to available to farmers.
(With PTI inputs)