Collapsed houses are seen after an earthquake of 7 magnitude, on the side of a road leading from Ya’an city to Luzhou county, in Ya’an, Sichuan province April 20, 2013. Stringer/Reuters
Magnitude-7 quake strikes Sichuan province.
The Associated Press, CBC – April 20, 2013
A powerful earthquake struck the steep hills of China’s southwestern Sichuan province Saturday, leaving at least 124 people dead and more than 2,600 injured, nearly five years after a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region.
The quake — measured by China’s seismological bureau at magnitude-7 and the U.S. Geological Survey at 6.6 — struck the steep hills of Lushan county shortly after 8 a.m. toppling buildings, many of them older brick structures. Tiles fell from roofs and walls collapsed, sending people into the streets in their underwear and wrapped in blankets.
Rescue workers turned a square outside the Lushan’s county hospital into a triage center with medical personnel treating the wounded, according to footage on China Central Television.
Some parts remain unreachable
Hard-hit parts of the county remained unreachable by road, with phone services cut off, but with some text and Internet services continuing, state media said.
A person whose posts to a micro-blogging account “Qingyi Riverside” on Sina Corp.’s Twitter-like Weibo service carried a Lushan geotag said that many buildings collapsed and that people could spot helicopters hovering above.
Aerial photos released by China’s military and shown on state television showed individual houses in ruins and some stretches of the county seat and villages flattened into rubble. The roofs of some taller buildings appeared to have slipped off exposing the floors beneath them.
The official Xinhua News Agency, citing the Sichuan earthquake bureau, said at least 124 people had died. The government of Ya’an city, which administers Lushan, said in a statement that more than 2,600 people were injured, 330 of them severely.
It said in a written statement that nearly all of the structures in Longmen village collapsed and that nearly 10,000 houses were damaged throughout the county.
Shallow depth magnified quake’s impact
The quake’s shallow depth, less than 13 kilometres, likely magnified the impact and CCTV showed footage from local security cameras shaking. Xinhua said that the quake rattled buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu 115 kilometres, to the east. It caused the shutdown of the city’s airport for about an hour before reopening, state media said.
Lushan, where the quake struck, is home to 1.5 million people where the fertile Sichuan plain meets foothills that eventually rise to the Tibetan plateau. The area is near a well-known preserve for pandas, Bifengxia, which Xinhua said was not affected by the quake. Dozens of pandas were moved to Bifengxia from another preserve, Wolong, after its habitat was wrecked by the 2008 quake.
7,000 helping on scene
As in most natural disasters, the government mobilized thousands of soldiers and others — 7,000 people by Saturday afternoon — sending excavators and other heavy machinery as well as tents, blankets and other emergency supplies. One soldier died after the vehicle that he and a dozen others were in slipped off the road and rolled down an embankment, state media reported.
China Earth Administration said there had been at least 35 aftershocks, including at least two of magnitude 5.0 or higher.
“It’s too dangerous,” said a person with the Weibo account Chengduxinglin and with a Lushan geotag. “Even the aftershocks are scary.”
The area lies near the same Longmenshan fault where the devastating 7.9-magnitude quake struck May 12, 2008, leaving more than 90,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead.
“It was just like May 12,” said Liu Xi, a writer in Ya’an city, who was jolted awake by Saturday’s quake. “All the home decorations fell at once, and the old house cracked.”