At least 30 people were killed when a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 hit southwestern China on Monday, as violent tremors damaged homes and left areas without electricity.
Telecommunications lines in areas home to more than 10,000 people were severed in the Sichuan province and some roads were blocked, said state broadcaster CCTV, with shocks forcing some power stations offline in Garze and Ya’an.
The quake is the strongest to hit the region since 2017, with the shaking felt hundreds of miles away in the cities of Xian and Changsha.
The epicentre was at the town of Luding at a depth of 10 miles, the China Earthquake Networks Centre said. Four of those killed were in Luding.
Posts on Monday from Chinese social media website Weibo showed lampshades swinging in provincial capital Chengdu, a city of about 21 million people, approximately 140 miles from the epicentre.
A total of 39,000 people live within 12 miles of the epicentre and 1.55 million within 62 miles, according to state television.
The death toll now stands at ‘more than 30 dead’, according to the state broadcaster.
Laura Luo, who lives in Chengdu, was on her way to her apartment block when she saw people rushing out of their high-rise homes in panic after getting earthquake warnings on their phones.
‘There were many people who were so terrified they started crying,’ the international PR consultant told Reuters.
‘All the dogs started barking. It was really quite scary,’ she said, referring to when the quake began.
In Luding, the quake was so strong it was hard for some people to remain standing, while cracks appeared on some houses, the China News Service reported.
‘I felt it quite strongly. Some of my neighbors on the ground floor said they felt it very noticeably,’ said Chen, a resident of Chengdu.
‘But because Chengdu is currently under epidemic management, people aren’t allowed to leave their residential compounds, so many of them rushed out into their courtyards,’ she added.
Chengdu resident Samantha Yang, 23, was in bed about to take a nap when the quake struck.
‘The building kept shaking, each time more severely than before,’ Yang said. ‘Truly, this was the scariest one since the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.’
President Xi Jinping called for local authorities to ‘make saving lives the first priority, go all out to rescue people in disaster-stricken areas, and minimize loss of life,’ according to CCTV.
Hundreds of rescue personnel were dispatched to the epicentre, state media reported, adding that ‘several aftershocks have been recorded in nearby areas’.
The Sichuan seismological authority said more than 1,000 soldiers had been sent to help rescue workers.
Video clips on social media showed lights swinging while people rushed out of buildings into the streets.
The most powerful Sichuan earthquake on record was in May 2008, when a magnitude 8.0 quake centred in Wenchuan killed almost 70,000 people and caused extensive damage.
Monday’s quake was also felt in the provinces of Yunnan, Shaanxi and Guizhou hundreds of miles away, according to state media.
A smaller Magnitude 4.6 tremor hit eastern Tibet less than an hour after the initial quake, according to the USGS.
Earthquakes are fairly common in China, especially in the country’s seismically active southwest.
This afternoon, An earthquake of magnitude 6.8 occurred in Ganzi, Sichuan.🙏🙏🙏 pic.twitter.com/NYNzE7cmo1