Rescuers search for missing after earthquake in China’s Sichuan

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At least 65 people killed and hundreds remain stranded or missing following 6.8 magnitude earthquake, media reported.

Rescue efforts are underway following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 65 people and left hundreds stranded or missing in China’s southwestern Sichuan province.

Rescuers scoured through rubble in remote villages on Tuesday to find survivors and those missing after the earthquake triggered landslides and shook buildings as far away as the provincial capital Chengdu, 200 km (124 miles) from the epicentre.

At least 65 people were killed, state media reported on Tuesday, with more than 200 still trapped in a remote scenic area and many missing elsewhere. Nearly 250 people are being treated for injuries from the disaster, with dozens critically wounded.

The earthquake on Monday struck the province’s mountainous Luding county, an area that sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau where tectonic plates meet, and that is regularly hit by earthquakes.

Video from state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday showed firefighters pulling a bruised and bloodied woman from the rubble and carrying a survivor on a stretcher across a river on a makeshift bridge, as well as damaged buildings and streets strewn with fallen masonry.

The local meteorological department has warned that Luding county will also experience rain for three days, potentially hampering rescue efforts.

Rescue workers evacuate residents after an earthquake in Luding county in China’s southwestern Sichuan province on September 5, 2022 [CNS/AFP]

China’s state-run Global Times news outlet reported on Tuesday that more than 50,000 people have been relocated following the earthquake. The China Earthquake Networks Centre recorded at least 10 aftershocks as of 7am local time (23:00 GMT).

Tents have been erected to provide shelter for those forced to relocate from homes rendered unsafe by the earthquake, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

State media reported that 243 houses had collapsed and 13,010 had been damaged.

Rescuers are working to restore telecommunications services and power and water utilities, as well as delivering food supply to residents. The quake cut power to several towns, while a number of highways collapsed and seven small-to-mid-sized hydropower stations suffered damage.

State media also reported that China’s President Xi Jinping has ordered “all-out rescue efforts”, including the deployment of the People’s Liberation Army. More than 6,500 emergency workers have been sent to take part in the search and rescue operations.

Deadliest earthquake

China’s deadliest earthquake in recent years was also in Sichuan when a 7.9 magnitude quake struck in 2008 and left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

The earthquake devastated towns, schools and rural communities outside the capital Chengdu, leading to a years-long effort to rebuild with more resistant materials.

Monday’s earthquake follows a heat wave and drought that had led to water shortages and power cuts due to Sichuan province’s reliance on hydropower. The latest disaster also comes on top of millions of residents of Chengdu being confined to their homes under a strict COVID-19 lockdown.

Taiwan’s government expressed its condolences to China on Tuesday and said it was ready to send rescuers, in a sign of goodwill to Beijing despite weeks of military tensions.

Taiwan’s presidential office said President Tsai Ing-wen had offered her “sympathy and concern”.

Taiwan’s fire department said separately it had assembled a rescue team which could immediately leave for the disaster area if given instructions to do so, saying it was “committed to the spirit of humanitarian care and disaster relief without borders”.

China has not said whether it will allow overseas teams in the country to help with search and rescue operations.

Taiwan, which frequently suffers its own earthquakes, sent a team to China in 2008 to assist in the Sichuan earthquake rescue efforts.

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