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Western China Quake Kills 89, Landslides Hamper Rescue Effort

Nurses support an injured woman who is taken to a hospital in Minxian county, Dingxi, Gansu province, July 22, 2013.

Nurses support an injured woman who is taken to a hospital in Minxian county, Dingxi, Gansu province, July 22, 2013.

Chinese state media say emergency personnel have rushed to reach a northwestern region hit by a strong earthquake that killed at least 89 people, but landslides are hampering the disaster response.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow, magnitude 5.9 quake struck early Monday, near the city of Dingxi in mountainous Gansu province. It said a second tremor measuring 5.6 shook the area about 90 minutes later, while hundreds of aftershocks followed.

Authorities said landslides blocked roads as thousands of Chinese police, firefighters and soldiers tried to reach rural areas where thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.

State news agency Xinhua said Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the emergency workers to make an "all-out" effort to save lives.

Lin, a doctor who works at a village clinic in the disaster area, said many of the injured were hit in the head by falling bricks. He said that some with more serious injuries have been sent to a county hospital.

Lin also said many homes made of brick and mud have collapsed. He said the army is helping villagers remove debris from the quake.

No major damage was reported in urban centers where buildings were constructed more solidly.

Forecasters predict heavy rains for the region this week, raising the risk of more landslides and flooding that could further complicate rescue efforts.

The Chinese Red Cross said it is sending relief supplies, including jackets and tents to earthquake survivors.

Much of western China is prone to earthquakes.

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit Lushan county in the southwestern province of Sichuan in April, killing at least 188 people. It was the first major quake to affect the province since the rapid growth of Chinese social media.

Hundreds of thousands of people used microblogging websites Weibo and NetEase to share information about the Lushan disaster, to locate missing people, and to express opinions about the government's response.

China made several technological improvements in the way it handled the Lushan quake following a more powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck nearby Wenchuan county in 2008, killing almost 90,000 people.

In the Lushan disaster, Chinese authorities sped up the distribution of sensory images of quake sites to local and central government agencies, while a new earthquake alarm system quickly alerted residents to the quake.

Michael Lipin in Washington also contributed to this report.

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