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JIUZHAIGOU, China: A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part of China's southwestern province of Sichuan, killing 19 people, including six tourists, and injuring 247, the provincial government and official media said on Wednesday (Aug 9).
The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200km northwest of the city of Guangyuan late on Tuesday at a depth of 10km, the US Geological Survey said. Shallow quakes tend to cause more surface damage.
The quake also occurred close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination.
The earthquake struck Sichuan, tearing cracks in mountain highways, triggering rockslides, damaging buildings and sending panicked residents and tourists fleeing into the open.
"People didn't dare grab anything like money or clothes - we just all ran outside right away," local restaurant owner Tang Sesheng told AFP by phone.
China's official earthquake monitoring agency said more than 1,000 aftershocks had been detected, the most powerful reaching magnitude 4.8 on Wednesday.
Sichuan is frequently struck by tremors. A huge quake there in May 2008 killed 87,000 people.
A separate quake with a magnitude of 6.6 struck a remote part of China's far northwestern region of Xinjiang, more than 2,000km away, on Wednesday morning, the Chinese earthquake administration said. The People's Daily said 32 people had been injured in the mostly rural area.
AS MANY AS 31,500 TOURISTS EVACUATED
The Sichuan government said rescuers were gradually evacuating tourists and residents who had been cut off by landslides.
In addition to the six tourists who were killed, 40 more were seriously injured, according to the local government of Aba prefecture, where the epicentre was located.
The state-run Xinhua news agency said that as many as 31,500 tourists had been evacuated from the quake zone, leading to traffic jams on the narrow roads.
"Nearly all the tourists are being evacuated," a local tour company worker, who gave only her surname Yan, told AFP by phone.
The Sichuan government said on one of its official social media sites that more than 38,000 tourists were currently visiting Jiuzhaigou.
A few dozen tourists were camped out at Jiuzhaigou airport, waiting for flights. The airport was open but many of the flights are delayed.
A traveller with a young daughter who gave his family name as Li said he was in his hotel when the earthquake hit.
"The walls and floor shook. Some things fell off the table," he said.
Some people were injured in the hotel but most were fine.
"The rescue services showed up quickly and gave us water and things to eat," Li said.
He was given priority to be evacuated as he was with a small child. "At first the road was blocked but they had cleared a lane this morning for ambulances."
A French man and a Canadian woman had light injuries, Xinhua reported.
The Sichuan government said earlier fears that part of a hotel had collapsed were overblown, with only relatively minor damage and everyone evacuated safely.
Pictures on state-run social media sites showed some damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles having fallen from buildings and people gathering outdoors.
Images showed cars and buses tossed into ravines or crushed by giant boulders jolted loose from surrounding hills, while uniformed paramilitary police with shovels were pictured digging through rubble for victims.
Elsewhere, injured victims were photographed being treated in hospitals while stunned crowds, fearing more tremors, waited out in the open to be evacuated, particularly near the epicentre at Jiuzhaigou.
President Xi Jinping called for "all-out efforts to rapidly organise relief work and rescue the injured" in the Sichuan quake, according to Xinhua.
Provincial fire authorities said at least 1,250 soldiers had been deployed to Jiuzhaigou, along with hundreds of vehicles, 30 sniffer dogs and 55 devices used to detect life underneath rubble.
Xinhua said more than 800 rescue personnel were combing through villages for survivors. State television also said electricity had now largely been restored to the affected areas.
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/quake-in-sichuan-province-s-jiuzhaigou-kills-19-including-9107772
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