At least 118 people have been killed and hundreds injured after an earthquake hit northwestern China in a remote and mountainous region while many were asleep.
While the authorities quickly mobilised several emergency responses, their work was complicated as the earthquake wrecked roads and infrastructure, triggered landslides, and half buried a village in silt. The rescue work has also proved challenging in subzero temperatures, with most of China grappling with below-freezing conditions after a powerful cold wave swept across the country.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called for “all-out efforts” in the search and relief operations. Nearly 1,500 firefighters were deployed with another 1,500 on standby, according to state media. More than 300 officers and soldiers were also mobilised for disaster relief.
The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.2, according to state news agency Xinhua. It struck at 23:59 pm (15:59 GMT) on Monday in Gansu province near the border with Qinghai, causing significant damage, state media reported on Tuesday.
The tremor was felt as far away as Xi’an in northern Shaanxi province, about 570km (350 miles) from the epicentre.
Gansu provincial authorities told a press conference that as of 7:50am (23:50 GMT on Monday), 105 people had been confirmed dead, and 397 injured. More than 4,700 houses had been damaged, they added. Power and water supplies were disrupted in some villages, Xinhua said.
A further 13 people died, 182 were injured and 20 were missing in the city of Haidong in neighbouring Qinghai province, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
State television footage showed emergency vehicles driving along snow-lined highways, and rescue workers pictured shoulder to shoulder in the trucks.
Supplies including drinking water, blankets, stoves and instant noodles were also being sent to the affected area.
People living close to the epicentre rushed out onto the street as they felt the earthquake. Some buildings collapsed.
“I live on the 16th floor and felt the tremors so strongly,” a man named Qin was quoted as saying in the state-run Global Times. “The moment of the earthquake was feeling like being tossed up after surging waves … I woke my family up and we rushed down all 16 floors in one breath.
Qin added that it was minus 12 degrees Celsius (10.4 Fahrenheit), and that while some of his neighbours had put on down jackets or wrapped themselves in blankets others were bare-chested.
The United States Geological Survey reported the quake was a magnitude 5.9, while the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said it was a magnitude 6.1.
The earthquake struck Gansu’s Jishishan county at a depth of 10km (6 miles). Gansu has a population of about 26 million people and includes part of the Gobi Desert.
Taiwan offers help
On Tuesday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen expressed condolences to China and offered her government’s help after the earthquake, despite the tensions between the two sides.
“We pray that all those affected receive the aid they need, and we hope for a swift recovery. Taiwan stands ready to offer assistance in the disaster response effort,” she added, writing in English and simplified Chinese characters, which are used in China but not Taiwan.
Problems between Taipei and Beijing, which views the democratically governed island as its own territory, have soared in the past four years, as China seeks to assert its sovereignty claims with political and military pressure.
Earthquakes are common in western provinces such as Gansu, which lie on the eastern boundary of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, a tectonically active area.
In September 2022, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit Sichuan province, killing almost 100 people.
A magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 left more than 87,000 people dead or missing, including 5,335 children who were in school at the time it happened.
At least 242,000 people were killed in 1976 after an earthquake struck Tangshan in the worst natural disaster in Chinese history.
Source : AlJazeera