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Sichuan earthquake

Nineteen dead, 247 injured as magnitude 7 quake rattles Sichuan

The epicentre of the quake was near Jiuzhaigou National Park in southwest China, which said it had 38,799 visitors on Tuesday

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 7:46am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 10:27am

A magnitude-7 earthquake in China’s southwestern Sichuan province on Tuesday night has claimed at least 19 lives and caused 247 injuries, according to figures released by the provincial government.

The epicentre of the quake was near Jiuzhaigou National Park, which said it had 38,799 visitors on Tuesday. More than 31,500 tourists in the region had been moved to safe locations, said the government of Aba Prefecture, where the park is located.

The quake zone might see aftershocks that reach magnitude 6.0, according to the China Earthquake Administration.

At least one foreign tourist is reported among the injured, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

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All three major roads leading to the national park have been cleared. One road is under traffic control, with only rescue vehicles allowed through.

The Western Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army, which oversees Sichuan province, upgraded aviation traffic control in the quake zone on Tuesday night to make way for rescue mission flights, the PLA Daily reported.

Relief aid will be dropped in the quake zone by transport aircraft.

The province’s paramilitary police has also sent out forces with life detecting equipment to search for survivors who may be buried under rubble.

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All three of the country’s major telecommunications firms have sent technicians to the quake zone to fix damaged networks.

Volunteers are strongly advised against going to the quake zone by the local authorities, who are trying to make sure traffic can flow to allow in professional rescue teams. Traffic congestions on roads to the quake zone was reported early on Wednesday morning as rescue vehicles wait in a long line to enter, the China News Service said.

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Roads that lead to the two most affected sites, a hotel and a lake, were blocked by debris. Firefighters had to walk 15km to reach the hotel and 50km to the lake.

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Part of the lobby of a hotel collapsed in the affected area. The hotel had more than 2,000 tourists and employees on site on Tuesday.

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.

Pictures on state media-run social media sites showed damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles fallen from buildings and people gathering outdoors.

State television said electricity had now largely been restored to the affected areas and the military was also sending rescuers to help with relief efforts. Jiuzhaigou airport was operating as normal after the runway was checked for damage, the report added.

A police official told state television that there had been some panic among the tourists when the quake hit.

Shaking was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu and as far away as Xian in Shaanxi province, home of the famous Terracotta Warriors, according to users of Chinese social media.