China quake kills, injures scores

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Chinese paramilitary police are seen beside a wrecked tour bus after an earthquake, in Jiuzhaigou yesterday. AFP

JIUZHAIGOU (Reuters) – A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part of China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, killing at least 19 people, including eight tourists, and injuring 247, the provincial government and official media said yesterday.

The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200 kilometres northwest of the city of Guangyuan late on Tuesday at a depth of 10km, the US Geological Survey said. It was also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination.

A separate quake of magnitude 6.6 hit a remote part of China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang, more than 2,000km away, yesterday, the Chinese earthquake administration said. The People’s Daily said 32 people had been injured in the mostly rural area.

The Sichuan government said rescuers were gradually evacuating tourists and residents who had been cut off by landslides. It added that 19 people had been killed, but most of those injured were not seriously hurt.

The dead included eight tourists, two residents and nine whose identities have yet to be confirmed, state television said.

In nearby Longnan in the neighbouring province of Gansu, also jolted by the quake, eight people died in landslides caused by heavy rain, the People’s Daily said.

The Sichuan government added that 45,000 tourists had been evacuated from the quake zone with just 1,000 more still waiting to leave.

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 in the hotel were injured.

“The rescue services showed up quickly and gave us water and things to eat,” Mr Li said, adding that he received priority in evacuation since he was accompanied by a child. “At first the road was blocked, but they had cleared a lane this morning for ambulances.”

A French man and a Canadian woman suffered light injuries, Xinhua reported.

All 341 Taiwan tourists in 19 tour groups were safe, the government of the self-ruled island said.

The Sichuan government dismissed as overblown earlier fears that part of
a hotel had collapsed, saying damage proved minor and everyone was evacuated safely.

The Sichuan earthquake administration said its epicentre was in Ngawa prefecture, populated chiefly by ethnic Tibetans, many of whom are nomadic herders.

The area was rattled by aftershocks yesterday.

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