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China quake: At least 12 dead, toll expected to rise, says govt

China quake: At least 12 dead, toll expected to rise, says govt
Pic: AFP

Beijing: At least 12 people were killed when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern China, government sources said Wednesday, but the toll was expected to climb as news trickles out of the remote mountainous region.

The earthquake occurred late Tuesday, killing 12 and injuring 175, 28 of them seriously, according to a statement by the government of Aba prefecture, where the epicentre was located.

But China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction estimated that as many as 100 people may have perished, based on past census data of the sparsely populated region.

Initial images emerging from the quake zone showed paramilitary police searching through rubble for survivors.

Elsewhere, stunned people were seen milling about on debris-strewn streets, fearful of going back inside in case of further tremors.

At least one aftershock, measured at 4.2 magnitude by the US Geological Survey (USGS), hit the region shortly after the main quake.

Early on Wednesday, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake shook northwest China’s Xinjiang region, thousands of kilometres from Sichuan, according to the (USGS).

It struck at around 7.30 am (2330 GMT) and was followed by two aftershocks of 5.2 and 5.3 magnitudes, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the remote area.

The Sichuan temblor was centred near Jiuzhaigou, a valley designated as a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site and which is famed for its striking scenery, karst rock formations, waterfalls and lakes.

Xinhua said at least five of the deaths occurred in Jiuzhaigou, adding that more than 34,000 people were visiting the popular tourist site at the time.

It said, 31,500 tourists had been relocated to safety.

The National Commission for Disaster Reduction estimated that more than 130,000 houses may have been damaged, based on a preliminary analysis of the disaster in Sichuan province.

-AFP