At least five dead, dozens injured in magnitude 7 quake in Sichuan; no Hongkongers reported among casualties
Homes destroyed, phone services disrupted and buildings evacuated as strong earthquake felt in neighbouring provinces
A magnitude 7 earthquake jolted the popular tourist destination of Jiuzhaigou county in China’s southwestern Sichuan province at about 9.19pm on Tuesday, killing at least five tourists and injuring more than 60 people, CCTV reported, citing county authorities.
The Sichuan earthquake bureau said that as of 11pm, more than 100 tourists were trapped at a scenic site near the Jiuzhaigou National Park.
A paramilitary police unit based in nearby Chongqing dispatched more than 200 officers to help with rescue efforts.
By midnight, no Hong Kong tourists were reported among the casualties.
Hong Kong’s immigration department said early on Wednesday morning that as of 2am, it had received requests for assistance or inquiries from 13 Hongkongers or their families, 10 of whom were confirmed safe.
The other three cases involved families who had lost contact with family members in Sichuan.
The immigration department has been trying to contact these individuals. Hong Kong’s government office in Chengdu has said it was also prepared to help.
Hongkongers who need help abroad should call the department’s 24-hour hotline at (852)1868.
The epicentre was close to the park, where a park employee said homes had collapsed in one of the valleys, and buildings were being evacuated, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The quake was also felt in some parts of neighbouring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, as well as the provincial capital of Chengdu.
The park said it had 38,799 visitors on Tuesday.
The epicentre was also 39km from the Jiuzhaigou county seat.
Photos posted on social media showed shattered windows, damaged walls and people standing in the street.
Witnesses said electricity had been cut and phone services disrupted in the area.
Local media reported that many train services passing through Jiuzhaigou had been suspended.
Hong Kong Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat said he had not received any reports about Hong Kong tours in Sichuan nor any requests for help from its member travel agencies.
Johnny So Tsz-yeung, general manager of Hong Kong travel agency Sunflower Travel, said about 20 people were on one of the company’s tours in Sichuan and all were safe.
He said the tour group was not near the epicentre.
Hong Thai Travel Services said the company had two groups of 40 people in Chengdu and the Mount Emei scenic area and nobody was affected.
A video posted on social media showed a road near a park entrance carpeted in rubble while another showed people rushing out from the gates of a tourist attraction.
Yang Yan, who runs a restaurant inside the park, said hundreds of tourists were standing on the street after the earthquake.
Many buildings were left without power and mobile phone services were disrupted, she said.
“I did not see anyone injured, but it was very frightening,” Yang said.
Yue Huaming, who owns a hostel in the Jiuzhaihou county seat, said the earthquake was strong and continued for about a minute.
“Everybody is outside right now. Tiles on the old houses have fallen off,” he said.
Another resident said he was having tea with his friends when the quake struck.
“I rushed out of the teahouse,” he said. “Everyone was shocked.”
Sichuan is vulnerable to geological disasters and has had deadly quakes in the past. A magnitude 8 quake in May 2008 killed nearly 70,000 people, while a 6.6 magnitude quake claimed close to 200 lives in April 2013.