Earthquake strikes southwest China causing 5 deaths

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An earthquake measuring 6.5 in magnitude struck China’s remote and mountainous southwestern province of Sichuan on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, causing five deaths and some damage to buildings in a tourist resort.

The quake struck in a sparsely populated area 200 kilometres west-northwest of the city of Guangyuan at a depth of 10 kilometres, the USGS said. It had earlier put the quake at magnitude 6.6 and 32 kilometres deep.

The Sichuan earthquake administration said the epicentre of the tremor was in Ngawa prefecture, largely populated by ethnic Tibetans, many of whom are nomadic herders, but also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a popular tourist destination.

The five fatalities were all tourists, according to the official People’s Daily newspaper.

The provincial government said more than 60 other people were injured, 30 of them seriously. 

While there was no confirmation of their nationalities, few foreign tourists go to such remote areas, meaning the dead were likely to be Chinese.

The area is frequently struck by earthquakes.

Pictures on state media-run social media sites showed some damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles having fallen from buildings and people gathering outdoors.

State television cited a resident in a village near Jiuzhaigou as saying no buildings had collapsed where he was, but that there had been strong shaking and people had fled outdoors.

A police official told state television that there had been some panic among tourists when the quake hit.

Cracked, collapsed houses

The official Xinhua news agency quoted a Jiuzhaigou tourism official as saying that some houses had collapsed or cracked and authorities were organizing evacuations.

The Sichuan government said on one of its official social media sites that more than 38,000 tourists were currently visiting Jiuzhaigou.

Shaking was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu and as far away as Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, according to users of Chinese social media.

A quake in Sichuan in May 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.