CHENGDU – At least 19 people have been killed and more than 240 others injured after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part of China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, the provincial government and official media said on Wednesday.
The powerful quake also knocked out power and phone networks, complicating efforts to locate and evacuate survivors.
The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200 km (120 miles) northwest of the city of Guangyuan late on Tuesday at a depth of 10 km (6 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination.
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The Sichuan government said rescuers were gradually evacuating tourists and residents who had been cut off by landslides.
It added that 19 people had been killed, but most of those injured were not seriously hurt.
The dead included eight tourists, two residents and nine whose identities have yet to be confirmed, state television said.
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A Canadian woman suffered a slight head injury and a French citizen was wounded in both legs and needed surgery to remove stone fragments, according to Xinhua. It said Frenchman Maxence Vallon, 18, was staying with his mother and brother at a hotel in Jiuzhaigou.
They were seeking shelter outside “when a big stone fell and hit my brother right in the leg,” said Romain Vallon, who studies in Beijing.
Sichuan is frequently struck by tremors. A huge quake there in May 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.
A separate quake of magnitude 6.6 hit a remote part of China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang, more than 2,000 km (1,240 miles) away, on Wednesday, the Chinese earthquake administration said. The People’s Daily said 32 people had been injured in the mostly rural area.
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In nearby Longnan in the neighboring province of Gansu, also jolted by the quake, eight people died in landslides caused by heavy rain, the People’s Daily said.
The Sichuan government added that 45,000 tourists had been evacuated from the quake zone with just 1,000 more still waiting to leave.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for rapid efforts to respond to the disaster. The area is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and home to many Tibetan and other ethnic minority villages. It’s also near Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations that attracts visitors from China and overseas.
Earthquakes are common in China’s west, although casualties are generally low because of the sparse population density.