More than 40 dead in China after a magnitude 6.6 earthquake

The death toll from a powerful 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck China’s mountainous southwestern Sichuan province on Monday has jumped to 46, according to new announcements from a state media.

The tremor was recorded at 12:52 p.m. local time (04:52 GMT) in Sichuan province, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – the world’s leading earthquake agency – said.

The epicenter is located 39 kilometers from Luding Township, in an area that is not densely populated, according to China’s state-run CCTV.

A video released by the official New China News Agency showed chandeliers swinging from the ceiling and sections of concrete buildings falling to the ground.

CCTV showed images of firefighters in orange outfits clearing rocks from a road and a blue sedan with a windshield smashed by a huge rock.

The tremor was also felt some 200 kilometers from the epicenter in the provincial capital Chengdu, whose 21 million residents are currently confined to their homes due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

The provisional death toll, revised upward in the evening, now stands at more than 30 dead, according to state television.

An earlier report said at least 21 people had died.

Faced with a death toll that could rise further, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for doing everything possible to help those affected by the disaster and minimize the loss of life, reported China News.

The army mobilized

Close to the epicenter, the city of Ya’an speaks of damage at various levels in the affected areas.

Houses were severely damaged and telecommunications were cut in some places near the epicenter, for its part, the neighboring prefecture of Garze said.

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This is the case in Moxi, a small town of 7,000 inhabitants, reported the public television CGTN.

More than 1,000 soldiers and army officers are mobilized, according to the Sichuan Seismological Bureau, which broadcast images of its engineers equipped with laptops going to the scene.

According to CCTV, local authorities have also dispatched several thousand rescue workers, firefighters, doctors and members of the People’s Armed Police – gendarmes responsible for public security and mobilized during disasters.

The tremor was relatively strong, a Chengdu resident who did not want to give her full name, Ms. Chen, told AFP.

Some of my neighbors on the first floor said they felt it very clearly, she added.

But because the city is confined people are not allowed to leave their apartment complexes, she noted.

The authorities have not reported any damage in the provincial capital for the moment. Chengdu had extended Sunday the confinement of its residents after the discovery in recent days of hundreds of new positive cases of coronavirus.

Aftershocks

Authorities have rushed thousands of tents, blankets and folding beds to the affected areas to help people whose homes were damaged, CCTV reported.

A video released by the China Seismic Network Center shows rocks rolling down a hill in Luding Township and raising clouds of dust, with telephone lines flickering from the shaking.

The Center reported several smaller aftershocks after the first earthquake.

Sichuan, very mountainous, is known throughout the world for its giant pandas reserves. The province is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In June, an earthquake of magnitude 6.1 had already shaken this region, leaving at least four dead and dozens injured.

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In May 2008, a very powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake left 87,000 people dead or missing in Sichuan. The disaster was a national shock.

Among the victims were thousands of students killed in the collapse of precariously built schools. The police arrested activists who were trying to count the precise number of children who died in the disaster.