Rescuers scramble to find earthquake victims in Gansu

Double earthquakes kill 89 people, injure more than 500 as some 1,200 buildings collapse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 8:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 2:55pm

Rescuers rushed to find victims buried by twin shallow earthquakes in northwest China on Monday after the double tremors killed 89 people and injured more than 500, officials said.

The government of Dingxi city in Gansu province, which was hit by quakes with magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.6, gave the figures on a verified social media account.

“More than 21,000 buildings were severely damaged and more than 1,200 have collapsed,” an official at the provincial earthquake bureau said, adding that 371 aftershocks had been recorded.

The tremor set off landslides which buried often crudely constructed local houses, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Pictures from the scene showed simple buildings reduced to rubble, with the pieces of corrugated metal scattered over the wreckage.

In one location 12 people were buried, the broadcaster quoted a witness as saying. “The rescue work is tough, because the house has been completely buried,” the man said.

More than 2,000 soldiers, 300 police, 50 medical staff and two helicopters had been sent to the area, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“We are rushing to the scene,” Dingxi’s vice-mayor told CCTV.

“The damage to houses made from earth bricks has been severe and many are now unusable,” the official said, adding that the number of people buried by the quake was still being estimated.

More than 700 rescue workers had arrived at the scene, CCTV said.

The US Geological Survey said the initial 5.9-magnitude quake hit at 7.45am at a depth of just 9.8 kilometres.

A second 5.6-magnitude tremor hit the same region at 9.12am and was 10.1 kilometres deep, USGS said.

While Gansu is one of China’s more sparsely populated provinces, Dingxi city, which includes the worst-hit counties, has a population of about 2.7 million.

A total of 380 buildings collapsed and thousands were damaged in Zhang county, according to an online post by the Dingxi local government. Communications were cut off in 13 towns in the county, the official Xinhua news agency said, and power was off in some areas.

The quake was felt in the provincial capital Lanzhou and as far away as Xian, the capital of the neighbouring province of Shaanxi, Xinhua reported.

People posting on China’s hugely popular microblogs expressed sympathy for the victims. “I hope the dead will rest in peace,” read one typical remark.

Beijing’s own China Earthquake Networks Centre put the magnitude of the larger quake at 6.6, Xinhua added.

The China Earthquake Administration said the same fault zone was linked to a magnitude 8.0 quake on July 21, 1654, it reported.

The USGS rated Monday’s main tremor at seven on its “shakemap”, with shaking perceived to be “very strong” and the potential to cause “moderate” damage.

Weather reports also said rain was expected in the area, which could hamper rescue efforts in the mountainous region.

Much of western China is prone to earthquakes.

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province killed about 200 people earlier this year, five years after almost 90,000 people were killed in a huge tremor in the same province.




20 per cent of buildings in the earthquake-stricken zone have collapsed, 60 per cent show cracks, Gansu Television reports. 



The death toll has risen to 56, Phoenix News reports, citing the Gansu provincial government. 412 people have been wounded, 12 are still missing. 


An estimated 27,360 people have been displaced in Zhang county, Phoenix News reports, citing the Dingxi government. 


The death toll has risen to 54, according to the Dingxi prefectural-city government


The death toll has risen to 53, according to the Dingxi prefectural-city government. At least 337 have been injured. A total of 405 tremors have been registered by 2pm, six of which were above 3.0 on the Richter scale.  



Su Wei, leader of a 120-member rescue team from the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, told state broadcaster CCTV that they were on their way to the epicentre, but progress was being slowed by mud and rock slides blocking the road, Associated Press reported.

The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area and sending teams from both Lanzhou and Beijing to help with relief work and assess further needs.

Heavy rain is expected in the area later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides.



A resident of Min county told Agence France-Presse he was at work at a medicine production plant when the tremor struck and he saw tower blocks shake “ferociously”.

“I was in the workshop. I felt violent shaking and so I ran to the yard of  the plant immediately,” said the man, surnamed Ma.

“Our factory is only one floor. When I came to the yard, I saw a 18 storey building, the tallest in our county, shaking ferociously, especially the 18th  floor.”


Meichuan in Minxian county reports at least 31 dead, Xinhua says. 


Eight towns in the remote, mountainous area sustained serious damage in the quake and subsequent flooding and mudslides, Reuters reported, citing Xinhua.

There were also power outages and communications were cut off in 13 towns in Zhangxian county, Xinhua said.


The death toll has risen to 47, according to the Gansu provincial government. At least 296 have been injured. 


An estimated 380 buildings have collapsed and 5,600 more have been damaged in Zhang county, the Dingxi government has said in a Sina Weibo post


The Lanzhou military region has dispatched some 1,000 soldiers to assist in rescue efforts, Phoenix News reports.  


Gansu Military police has dispatched 500 troops to the earthquake zone to assist in rescue efforts, Phoenix News reports. 


The death toll has risen to 22, China News Service reports. 13 villages in Zhang county, northwest of the epicentre, have been cut off from outside contact. 




Residents described shaking windows and swinging lights but little major damage and little panic, Associated Press reported. 

“You could see the chandeliers wobble and the windows vibrating and making noise, but there aren’t any cracks in the walls. Shop assistants all poured out onto the streets when the shaking began,” said a front desk clerk at the Wuyang Hotel in the Zhang county seat about 40 kilometres from the epicentre.


The China Earthquake Administration has started an emergency-response plan that includes close monitoring of relief efforts and sending rescue teams to affected areas, state media Xinhua news agency reported.


Dingxi municipal government says the earthquake's death toll rises to 11, with 81 people severely injured. 


CCTV reports at least 43 people injured.



The three deaths were reported in Minxian in the rural southern part of Dingxi municipality, Xinhua News Agency reported.


Scene at a primary school in the earthquake-striken zone.


China Central Television, citing local officials, said three people were killed. No other reports of damage or injuries were immediately available.


A second 5.6-magnitude tremor hit the same region at 9.12am at a depth of 10.1 kilometres, USGS said.


A strong and shallow earthquake was detected in central China's Gansu province on Monday morning.

The USGS said the 5.9 magnitude quake, initially reported as a magnitude 6.0, struck 156 kilometres west of Tianshui in Gansu province and at a depth of 9.8 kilometres. 

The quake struck at 7.45am, and the epicentre was Dingxi city in Gansu province, a largely desert and pastureland region with a population of 26 million. That makes it one of China’s more lightly populated provinces, although the area around Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms and towns.

The Chinese government measured it at 6.6-magnitude. Another earthquake was reported at 7.54am at 3.4 magnitude, the first of several aftershocks, according to the China Earthquake Administration. 

Taihe, a village in Dingxi city close to the epicentre of the earthquake, suffered serious damages, with almost all of its buildings demolished, reported Daily Gansu, a local news site. It said casualty information was still unclear. 

Some 440,000 people live in 389 villages in Minxian county, in Dingxi, mostly located in hard to reach mountainous areas. The county lies on China’s south-north seismic belt. The tremor could be felt in the provincial capital Lanzhou, 177 kilometres from the epicentre, netizens said on microblogs.

China News Service said it had so far been unable to reach local residents by phone. The national China Earthquake Administration warned residents of aftershocks and earthquake-induced mudslides.

The epicentre is about 800 kilometres north of Lushan, Sichuan province, where a 7.0 earthquake on April 20 caused the death of at least 196 people.

View Minxian, Dingxi, Gansu in a larger map

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press