22 Jul 2013

Fatal tremors hit Chinese province

10:12 pm on 22 July 2013

Two powerful earthquakes have struck China's north-west Gansu province on Monday, killing more than 50 people and injuring at least 300.

The first quake near Dingxi city had a magnitude of 5.98 and was shallow, with a depth of 9.8km, the US Geological Survey said. Just over an hour later, a magnitude 5.6 quake hit the same area.

At least 54 people have been killed and 337 injured, the Dingxi local government said on its official Sina Weibo microblog.

Gansu is next to Sichuan province, where a 6.6 quake in April this year killed 164 people and injured at least 6700. In 2008, an earthquake in Sichuan province left up to 90,000 people dead and millions homeless.

The area has been hit by 371 aftershocks, according to the Earthquake Administration of Gansu province. At least 5600 houses in the province's Zhangxian county are seriously damaged and 380 have collapsed, while some areas suffered from power cuts or mobile communications being disrupted, it said.

"Many have been injured by collapsed houses," a doctor based in Minxian county said. "Many villagers have gone to local hospitals along the roads."

Crews of fire fighters and rescue dogs have arrived at the scene. The earthquake reportedly triggered a series of mudslides and landslides, making it difficult for rescuers to access some areas hit by the quake, the BBC reports.

Military police have deployed 500 soldiers, including 120 specialist rescuers, while 500 emergency tents and 2000 quilts are also being transported to affected areas.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang had called Gansu province to express their concern for the victims, and stress the importance of the rescue operations being conducted well, the Dingxi government said.