Sichuan earthquake: Seven killed and 100 trapped after magnitude 6.5 tremor strikes central China

Samuel Osborne, Chloe Farand
The quake struck 120 miles from the city of Guangyuan in Sichuan province, which is regularly hit by tremors: USGS

Eight people have been killed and 100 tourists have been trapped in a popular scenic spot after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck in a mountainous region of central China.

But China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction estimated that as many as 100 people may have died, based on 2010 census data of the mountainous, according to AFP.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck in a sparsely populated area 200km (120 miles) west-northwest of the city of Guangyuan at a depth of 10km (6 miles). It had earlier put the quake at magnitude 6.6 and 32 km deep.

Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.

Seven people have been killed and 88 were injured, 21 of them seriously, state television said.

There were also reports of a tourist being pulled out alive from rubble.

Damage to buildings have been reported in a tourist resort and the official People's Daily said five of the dead were tourists.

There has been no confirmation of the people's nationalities so far but few foreign tourists go to such remote areas meaning the dead are likely to be Chinese.

The Sichuan government added that 100 tourists have been trapped by a landslide but that there were no reports of any deaths or injuries amongst them for the moment.

Spokesman Chen Weide said it was unclear what had happened to them and whether they had been buried or were trapped by a blocked road.

The fire service said the reception area in a hotel had collapsed, trapping some people, but that 2,800 people had already been evacuated from the building.

The Sichuan earthquake administration said the epicentre of the tremor was in Ngawa prefecture, largely populated by ethnic Tibetans, many of whom are nomadic herders, but also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a popular tourist destination.

Officials said on social media that more than 38,000 tourists were then visiting Jiuzhaigou.

The area is frequently struck by earthquakes.

Pictures on state media-run social media sites showed some damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles having fallen from buildings and people gathering outdoors.

State television cited a resident in a village near Jiuzhaigou as saying no buildings had collapsed where he was, but that there had been strong shaking and people had fled outdoors.

A police official told state television that there had been some panic among the tourists when the quake hit.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted a Jiuzhaigou tourism official as saying that some houses had collapsed or cracked and authorities were organising evacuations.

Shaking was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu and as far away as Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, according to users of Chinese social media.

The China Earthquake Networks Centre measured reported the quake at magnitude 7.0 and said it was 20km (12 miles) deep.

The Chinese agency said the quake occurred around 9:20pm near Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations.

A quake in Sichuan in May 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.

Additional reporting by agencies.