Beijing: At least 12 people were killed and over 100 injured after China's southwest Sichuan province was hit by two strong earthquakes, the state media reported Tuesday.
The first 6.0 magnitude quake shook Changning County of Yibin City at 10:55 pm on Monday (local time) and according to the China Earthquake Centre (CENC), the second tremor of magnitude 5.3 hit the area on Tuesday morning.
"As so far, 12 people died and another 125 were injured," China Daily reported. The deaths and injuries were reported from across the province. "Two people remain trapped and one of them is in critical condition," a rescuer told Xinhua.
Four people have been rescued and sent to a hospital, according to a rescuer in Shuanghe township. People in Yibin said aftershocks were felt in the following half-an-hour of the earthquakes. "I was resting in my house when the quake struck," said Chen Hongxia, who lives on the 16th floor of a residential building in Changning County.
"The chandelier and furniture were vigorously shaking, and my family first hid in the toilet and then rushed outside," Chen said, adding that many of her neighbours rushed to the ground floor. Hu Yukun, also a resident of Changning County, said the quake was quite strong, and that "the ground kept shaking for about a minute."
Local policeman He Zexi said he first felt the electric fan in his house shaking and then the chandelier began to shake. "It lasted about 30 seconds," he said. In provincial capital Chengdu, an early warning system alerted the people about one minute before the earthquake struck. When the countdown ended, strong tremor was felt. The Ministry of Emergency Management and the provincial department of emergency management have activated an "emergency response", according to Xinhua.
The ministry has sent a work team to the affected areas to provide guidance in rescue and disaster relief. The National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration and the ministry have dispatched 5,000 tents, 10,000 folding beds and 20,000 quilts to the quake-hit areas, the state media reported. Sixty-three fire tenders and about 302 fire fighters from Sichuan province have been rushed to the scene for rescue operations, the ministry said. The Hongyuan Hotel in Meidong township collapsed during the earthquake, according to the county government. The quake caused cracks in a major highway connecting Yibin and Xuyong County of Sichuan's Luzhou city and it has has been closed. Some sections of two other highways have also been shut.
Meidong and Shuanghe, which are near the epicentre of the quakes, are suffering from poor telecommunications and the townships are being slashed by heavy rains since Monday. Local police are trying to evacuate the people to safety and hospital staff, firemen and other rescuers are rushing to quake-hit areas for rescue efforts.
Strong tremors were felt in major districts of neighbouring Chongqing Municipality, which is not far from the epicentre, and a few residential houses were damaged. However, no casualties were reported, the Chongqing Municipal Emergency Management Bureau said. Changning is around 300 km from Chengdu and about 240 km from Chongqing. In neighbouring Yunnan province, the earthquake was felt in a few counties of Zhaotong city, which is close to Yibin city. Local fire departments have sent teams to help with rescue efforts, the Xinhua report said.