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More than 100 killed in powerful China earthquake

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At least 116 people were killed and hundreds more injured after an earthquake hit northwest China, state media reported Tuesday, as rescue teams scrambled to reach survivors in sub-zero temperatures.

The quake rocked Jishishan county in Gansu Province late Monday night, damaging houses and roads. Rescuers raced to search for survivors trapped under rubble, while residents rushed outdoors, huddling overnight in the bitter winter cold.

As of Tuesday morning, the quake has killed 105 people and damaged more than 4,700 houses in Gansu, provincial authorities said in a news conference.

A total of 397 people in Gansu have been injured so far, including 16 critically and 76 seriously, officials said.

Eleven people have died in the neighboring province of Qinghai, according to CCTV.

The quake struck just before midnight while many would have been sleeping in their homes. It measured 5.9-magnitude at the shallow depth just over 6 miles, according to the United States Geological Survey. The China Earthquake Administration gave a slightly higher reading of 6.2 magnitude.

The tremors lasted nearly 20 seconds and were felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou 102 kilometers (63 miles) away, CCTV reported.

Rescuers conduct search and rescue operations after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake on December 19, 2023 in Jishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province of China.

Some village homes in Gansu and Qinghai have collapsed, with firefighters pulling survivors out of the rubble in the dark, footage from CCTV showed. More than 1,600 firefighters have been deployed.

The quake has also cut off water and electricity supply as well as mobile signals in some areas, complicating rescue efforts.

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Bitter temperatures

In Jishishan, residents woke up to strong tremors. Many rushed out of their homes to seek safety in open areas. Videos and images on state media show families huddling together and wrapped in thick blankets on a public square.

Authorities have set up tents at a temporary resettlement site on a square in Dahejia, a hard-hit town in Jishishan county, CCTV reported.

The lowest temperature in Jishishan was -14 degrees Celsius, or 6.8 degrees Fahrenheit, overnight, according to CCTV.

The below-freezing temperatures pose the “biggest challenge” to rescue efforts, Wang Duo, an expert involved in the rescue, told the state-run outlet China Newsweek. The first 72 hours are usually considered the “golden period” for rescue, but that precious time window is shortened in this case due to the biting cold, Wang said.

Large swathes of China, including its northwest, have been gripped by a sudden cold snap in recent days, with temperatures plunging to near historic lows in some northern areas.

Chinese Xi Jinping on Tuesday urged authorities to “make all-out efforts” to search for survivors and treat the injured, noting that the disaster took place in a high-altitude area with cold weather, according to Xinhua.

China is no stranger to powerful earthquakes, especially in southwestern parts of the country where the Eurasian tectonic plate meets the Indian plate, a dramatic collision that creates the mighty Himalayas and the vast Tibetan plateau.

The quake is on course to be the deadliest to have hit China in nearly a decade, since an earthquake in the southwestern province of Yunnan killed around 600 people in 2014.

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Yunnan’s neighboring province, Sichuan, witnessed a devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 2008 that killed some 90,000 people.


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