BEIJING: The death toll from a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck a remote part of China’s southwest rose to four on Sunday, as media reported the injured have all been successfully rescued.
Reports previously said two people died when the quake struck 39 kilometers (24 miles) northwest of Kangding in the mountainous west of Sichuan province at 4:55 p.m. local time on Saturday (8:55 a.m. Manila time on Sunday).
The new death toll was reported on Sunday by Xinhua state news agency, who also adjusted the number of injured from 60 to 54, with six being in critical condition.
“Within nine hours, emergency services were able to successfully rescue all those injured,” Xinhua said, without giving details on the current state of the rescue operation.
Just under 80,000 people were affected by the quake, the news agency said, adding that 25,000 houses were damaged and 6,200 people relocated.
Xinhua said the epicenter was at the town of Tagong, where a police rescue team arrived two hours after the tremor struck.
“Six military aircraft, 60 medical staff and nearly 1,000 soldiers and militia remain on standby,” the report added.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake had a depth of 14 kilometers.
More than 100 vehicles remain trapped on the G318 Highway linking Sichuan and Tibet after part of the road caved in, the news agency said, adding that traffic was expected to resume by mid-day Sunday.
Passenger trains in affected areas were halted by Chengdu railway authorities but service has now resumed, Xinhua said.
China Earthquake Networks Center measured the quake at 6.3, according to Xinhua. China uses a different magnitude scale to the US.
There have been 95 aftershocks so far, Xinhua reported, adding that medical response teams from nearby cities had been mobilized, while the civil affairs department had sent thousands of tents, quilts and coats to those affected.
Prone to earthquakes
China’s southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan are acutely vulnerable to earthquakes.
The region sees frequent seismic activity from the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which form the vast Himalayan mountain range.
In May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude quake rocked Sichuan, killing more than 80,000 people and flattening swathes of the province. It was the worst quake disaster to hit China in more than three decades.
Last month, hundreds of people were injured and more than 100,000 displaced after a shallow 6.0 magnitude tremor hit Yunnan province, close to China’s borders with Myanmar and Laos.
And in August, a 6.1-magnitude quake struck Yunnan killing more than 600 people.
More than 3,000 people were injured, while more than 80,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed.
In 1976, the industrial city of Tangshan, 200 kilometErs east of Beijing, was levelled by an earthquake measuring 7.5 according to the US Geological Survey.
Beijing puts the official death toll from that disaster at 242,000, with 164,000 seriously injured, although Western sources say the number of victims could have been much higher.