At least 89 people were killed and nearly 600 injured in a strong earthquake that shook large parts of northwest China’s Gansu
province on Monday.
Several people were reported to be missing.
The elderly and children were among the worst affected. The toll could go up.
More than a dozen towns were affected by the 6.6-magnitude quake which demolished buildings, cut off communication lines and triggered landslides and mudslides across the region.
The first of the aftershocks of around 5 magnitude was felt by 9 in the morning. That was the beginning; at least 420 more felt by early evening.
The quake triggered the collapse of more than 1,200 houses and severely damaged another 21,000 homes, authorities said.
Thousands of military, police and rescue personnel from emergency services and fire brigades were dispatched from neighbouring areas and the provincial capital, Lanzhou, to the affected areas soon after the tremor was reported.
The aftershocks made rescue efforts difficult.
Adding to the woes was continuous rain that the affected areas had experienced over the weekend; more rain is expected on Tuesday.
Eyewitnesses told local officials that they trees and houses shake for nearly a minute; electric poles were uprooted in many places.
Officials fear that the death and injury toll could rise as many could still be trapped under the debris of houses that crumbled in the tremor.
The China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC) told the state-run Xinhua news agency that the epicenter, with a depth of 20 km, was monitored at 34.521 degrees north latitude and 104.23 degrees east longitude.
The cities of Xi’an, Baoji and Xianyang in neighboring Shaanxi Province also felt the quake.
President Xi Jinping, Xinhua reported, has urged all-out rescue effort and put “saving life” as the top priority.