Beijing - At least 54 people were killed and more than 300 severely injured
when two shallow earthquakes struck northwest China early Monday, officials
said, as rescuers battled to reach survivors in the remote, mountainous area.
The local government in Dingxi in Gansu province, where the 5.9- and
5.6-magnitude tremors struck, gave the figures on its verified social media
"More than 21 000 buildings were severely damaged and more than 1,200
have collapsed," an official at the provincial earthquake bureau told AFP,
adding that 371 aftershocks had been recorded.
The US Geological Survey said the initial 5.9-magnitude quake hit at 07:45
(23:45 GMT), with its epicentre 151km west of Beidao in Gansu at a depth of
A second 5.6-magnitude tremor hit the same region at 9:12 and was 10.1km
deep, USGS said.
A resident of Min county said he was
at work at a medicine production plant when the tremor struck and he saw tower
blocks shake "ferociously".
"I was in the workshop. I felt violent shaking and so I ran to the yard
of the plant immediately," said the man, surnamed Ma.
"Our factory is only one floor. When I came to the yard, I saw an 18
storey building, the tallest in our county, shaking ferociously, especially the
An official surnamed He from the Min county Communist Party committee told
AFP there were more than 200 injured in seven affected townships in the area.
While Gansu is one of China's more sparsely populated provinces, Dingxi
city, which includes the worst-hit counties, has a population of about 2.7
A report on the 163.com internet news portal said 500 troops, including 120
specialised rescuers were on their way to the disaster zone.
Pictures broadcast on state television showed rural villages with
A total of 380 buildings collapsed and thousands were damaged in Zhang
county, according to an online post by the Dingxi local government.
Communications were cut off in 13 towns in the county, the official Xinhua news
agency said, and power was off in some areas.
The quake was felt in the provincial capital Lanzhou and as far away as
Xian, the capital of the neighbouring province of Shaanxi, Xinhua reported.
People posting on China's hugely popular microblogs expressed sympathy for
the victims. "I hope the dead will rest in peace," read one typical
Beijing's own China Earthquake Networks Centre put the magnitude of the larger
quake at 6.6, it added.
Fault zone link
The China Earthquake Administration said the same fault zone was linked to a
magnitude 8.0 quake on 21 July 1654, Xinhua added.
The USGS rated on Monday's main tremor at seven on its "shakemap",
with shaking perceived to be "very strong" and the potential to cause
Weather reports also said rain was expected in the area, which could hamper
rescue efforts in the mountainous region.
Disaster relief agencies have sent 500 tents and 2 000 quilts to the
quake-hit area, Xinhua said.
Much of western China is prone to earthquakes.
A magnitude 6.6 earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province killed about 200
people earlier this year, five years after almost 90 000 people were killed in
a huge tremor in the same province.