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Tens of thousands evacuated after China quake kills 19
By Becky Davis
Chengdu, China (AFP) Aug 9, 2017

China quake scars treasured scenic tourist site
Chengdu, China (AFP) Aug 9, 2017 - The strong earthquake that jolted southwestern China appears to have left deep physical scars on Jiuzhaigou, a network of mountain valleys prized as one of the country's few remaining areas of pristine natural beauty.

At last 19 people were killed when a 6.5-magnitude quake struck on Tuesday with its epicentre in Jiuzhaigou, which is famed for more than 140 lakes whose waters range from crystal-clear to turquoise, lying at the feet of forest-clad mountains.

But the quake triggered massive landslides that raked swathes of green forest from the mountainsides, scarring them with huge earth-coloured gashes, according to aerial footage shot by the official Xinhua news agency.

In some places, the landslides tumbled into the glassy waters, turning them a cloudy mud-brown, footage from the Chongqing Economic Times showed.

One of the park's most photographed locations -- Sparkling Lake -- appears to have suffered particular damage, with images showing how a strip of land between lake sections had collapsed due to the quake, draining a section of the lake nearly dry.

A statement issued by park authorities said the area was "severely damaged" and listed a number of other spots in the park that had suffered damage.

More than 30,000 visitors were in Jiuzhaigou at the time of the earthquake, according to authorities, and most of them were evacuated from the park Wednesday.

The sort of beauty on display at Jiuzhaigou is increasingly rare in China, whose natural environment has been devastated in decades of rapid economic growth that has triggered rampant development and made it one of the most polluted countries in the world.

Deadly earthquakes in China's recent history
Beijing (AFP) Aug 9, 2017 - Lethal earthquakes have plagued China throughout its history, the latest coming late Tuesday when a 6.5-magnitude quake hit mountainous southwestern Sichuan province, killing at least a dozen people.

It was followed by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake more than 2,000 kilometres away in northwest China's Xinjiang region early Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the remote area.

The world's deadliest earthquake is thought to have been the huge 1556 disaster that struck northern Shaanxi province, with estimates of the toll put at more than 830,000 people.

Here are some of the notable Chinese quake disasters of the past century:

-- December 16, 1920: 230,000 perish in an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 in the northwestern province of Gansu.

-- May 23, 1927: 41,000 people die in Gansu in an earthquake measuring 7.6.

-- January 5, 1970: 15,621 are killed after an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude in southwestern Yunnan province.

-- May 11, 1974: An earthquake of magnitude 7.1 hits the southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan. Estimates of those killed range widely from 1,500 to 20,000.

-- July 28, 1976: The industrial city of Tangshan, 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of Beijing, is levelled by an earthquake measuring 7.8. Estimates of the death toll range between 250,000 and 800,000 people.

-- February 3, 1996: Up to 300 are believed killed and thousands injured in a quake measuring 6.6 near the city of Lijiang, in Yunnan.

-- May 12, 2008: An 8.0-magnitude earthquake strikes Sichuan, leaving nearly 87,000 dead or missing. The quake is felt in the capital Beijing, 1,800 kilometres away. Another 4.45 million are injured in the worst quake disaster to hit China in a generation.

-- April 14, 2010: A 6.9-magnitude earthquake in a largely ethnic Tibetan region of Qinghai kills nearly 2,700 people and leaves more than 12,000 injured.

China on Wednesday evacuated tens of thousands of people in its mountainous southwest after a strong earthquake killed at least 19 people, rattling a region where memories of a 2008 seismic disaster remain fresh.

The 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan province late on Tuesday, tearing cracks in mountain highways, triggering landslides, damaging buildings and sending panicked residents and tourists fleeing into the open.

Thousands of people, many of them tourists at a popular national park near the epicentre, were being evacuated to safety Wednesday after spending a nervous night out in the open as more than 1,000 aftershocks rippled across the region.

The area's difficult geography -- and travel restrictions quickly imposed by authorities -- have so far prevented a clear picture of the scale of the disaster from emerging, but there were no reports of catastrophic damage or large-scale casualties by Wednesday afternoon.

The quake killed at least 19 people and injured at least 247, 40 of them seriously, according to the local government of Aba prefecture where the epicentre was located.

Images on social media or in state news outlets showed cars and buses tossed into ravines or crushed by giant boulders jolted loose from surrounding hills, and rescue personnel combing through rubble for any victims.

Aerial footage broadcast by state-run Xinhua news agency showed picturesque green-forested mountains now scarred by huge gouges from giant landslides that sent clouds of dust into the air.

- 'We just ran' -

The quake's epicentre was near Jiuzhaigou, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its karst rock formations, waterfalls and lakes.

Xinhua said at least five of the deaths occurred there, and that more than 30,000 people had been evacuated from Jiuzhaigou alone.

"Nearly all the tourists are being evacuated," a Jiuzhaigou tour company worker who gave only her surname, Yan, told AFP by phone.

"We slept overnight in tour buses and have been staying in the open ground. Landslides are pretty bad, rocks keep falling down."

China's official earthquake monitoring agency said more than 1,000 aftershocks had been detected, the most powerful reaching magnitude 4.8 on Wednesday morning.

More than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) to the northwest, a 6.3-magnitude tremor shook the far-western border region of Xinjiang on Wednesday morning, according to the US Geological Survey.

The Xinjiang quake, which was followed by aftershocks of 5.2 and 5.3 magnitude, injured 32 people and damaged more than 1,000 homes, Xinhua said.

- 'All-out efforts' -

President Xi Jinping called for "all-out efforts to rapidly organise relief work and rescue the injured" in the Sichuan quake.

Hundreds of soldiers and rescue personnel had been deployed to the Jiuzhaigou area, along with hundreds of vehicles, and dozens of sniffer dogs and devices used to detect life underneath rubble.

The quake struck at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres, the USGS said, and was reportedly felt hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre. Shallow quakes tend to cause more surface damage.

It evoked memories of a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated wide areas of the same region in 2008, leaving 87,000 people dead or missing in China's worst seismic disaster in a generation.

"I was also in Jiuzhaigou in 2008 during the last big quake, so I knew what it was. This felt even stronger," local restaurant owner Tang Sesheng told AFP by phone.

"People didn't dare grab anything like money or clothes -- we just all ran outside right away."

Several people contacted by AFP reported seeing some structures collapse. Others, speaking from the road amid an exodus on traffic-choked mountain highways, reported cars being hit by persistent rockfalls in the quake's aftermath.

The 2008 quake set off deadly landslides in the region, obliterating towns and damming rivers -- creating menacing "quake lakes" that forced the evacuation of thousands downstream as the army worked to clear the blockages.

The Red Cross Society of China said it was sending emergency specialists and volunteers, while Save the Children was also mobilising teams.

"Given the frequent landslides in the rainy season and potential massive secondary disaster following the big earthquake, Save the Children is deeply concerned about the safety of children and women in the affected areas," said the charity's operations director in China, Zhang Hongxia.

Up to 100 feared dead, thousands injured in China quake: govt
Beijing (AFP) Aug 8, 2017
A 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattled southwest China late Tuesday, killing at least seven people, with up to 100 feared dead, according to a government estimate. Seven people died and 88 were injured in the quake, including 21 seriously, the official Xinhua news agency said. It said that at least five of the dead were visitors to the touristic area. The state-run People's Daily newsp ... read more

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