BEIJING: At least 13 people were killed when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern China, authorities said Wednesday, but the toll was expected to climb as news trickles out of the remote mountainous region.
Aftershocks shuddered across the quake-prone province of Sichuan, adding to the anxiety of victims, with the most powerful reaching a magnitude of 4.8 on Wednesday.
Images emerging from the quake zone showed cars and buses tossed into ravines or smashed by giant boulders apparently jolted loose from surrounding hills, while uniformed paramilitary police with shovels were pictured digging through rubble for victims.
The earthquake hit late Tuesday, killing 13 and injuring 175, 28 of them seriously, according to a statement by the government of Aba prefecture, where the epicenter was located.
Aid organizations warned that it will take time before a clear picture of the scale of the disaster comes into focus due to the area’s difficulty geography.
China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction estimated that as many as 100 people may have perished, based on past census data of the sparsely populated region, and that tens of thousands of homes may have been damaged.
Pictures circulating on social media showed stunned people milling about on debris-strewn streets, fearful of going back inside as more than 1,000 aftershocks were detected, according to China’s official earthquake monitoring agency.
Yet another sparsely populated part of China was rocked by a strong quake Wednesday morning.
The 6.3-magnitude tremor shook northwestern Xinjiang region, more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Sichuan, according to the USGS, and was followed by local aftershocks of 5.2 and 5.3 magnitude.
At least three people there were injured when their home collapsed, official Xinhua news agency said, adding that the initial Xinjiang quake was felt as far away as the regional capital Urumqi more than 200 kilometers to the east.