Rescue workers carry an injured person after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck China's southwestern Sichuan province on Monday

Rescuers look for survivors of the earthquake in China

Rescuers carry a victim after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit southwest China’s Sichuan province on Monday – Copyright CNS/AFP STR

Purnima VIRASEKARA

Rescue workers searched for hundreds of missing people in parts of southwestern China on Tuesday after more than 60 people were killed in an earthquake as local weather services warned rain was expected in the area.

The 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit about 43 kilometers southeast of Kangding city in Sichuan province at a depth of 10 kilometers on Monday, according to the US Geological Survey.

At least 65 people have died, more than 200 are still trapped in a remote scenic area, and many are missing elsewhere, according to state media on Tuesday morning.

Video by state broadcaster CCTV shows firefighters pulling a bruised and bloody woman from the rubble and carrying a survivor on a stretcher across a river over a makeshift bridge, as well as damaged buildings and streets littered with fallen masonry.

And footage provided by the China Seismic Network Center (CENC) shows boulders crashing down mountainsides in Luding County, kicking up clouds of dust as tremors shake roadside telephone wires.

At least one city was hit hard by landslides triggered by the quake, CCTV reported.

“Precisely before 5 o’clock, I heard a rumbling sound. The house was shaking so hard that I immediately woke up,” a woman named Zheng from Lu County, Sichuan Province, told Beijing News.

“My brother’s house collapsed. His house is old, built more than 10 years ago. My house is newly built, so the situation is better.”

– “All for the sake of saving people” –

The quake also shook buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu, where millions of people are chained to their homes due to strict Covid-19 quarantines, and in the neighboring metropolis of Chongqing, local residents told AFP.

At least 10 aftershocks of magnitude 3.0 or greater had been recorded as of 7 a.m. local time (2300 GMT), according to CCTV.

The local meteorological department said it would rain for three days in Luding County, the epicenter of the quake, which could hamper rescue efforts.

The Chinese cabinet said last night it had sent a special team to lead the effort, according to video surveillance, more than 6,500 people were sent to the rescue operation.

And President Xi Jinping urged local authorities to “make saving lives a top priority, do everything possible to save people in disaster-hit areas and minimize loss of life,” CCTV reported.

Local authorities issued a public appeal to collect donations for relief efforts.

– Seismic region –

Earthquakes in China are quite frequent, especially in the seismically active southwest of the country.

A smaller quake of magnitude 4.6 hit eastern Tibet less than an hour after the original quake, according to the US Geological Survey.

An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 in 2008 in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province killed tens of thousands of people and caused massive damage.

In June, at least four people died and dozens were injured in two earthquakes in southwest China.

In the same month, a shallow shock of magnitude 6.1 hit a sparsely populated area about 100 kilometers west of Chengdu.

It was followed three minutes later by a second earthquake of magnitude 4.5 in the neighboring district, where there were dead and injured.

Chengdu authorities extended the city’s quarantine on Sunday as they battle the Covid outbreak with hundreds of cases.

The region has also been hit by extreme weather during the summer, when a record heat wave noticeably dried up rivers in Chongqing.

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