No fewer than 118 people were killed and hundreds were injured in an earthquake that struck some remote villages in northwest China.
On Tuesday, rescuers dug through the rubble of collapsed homes following China’s deadliest earthquake in years.
Officials in impoverished Gansu province said Tuesday morning that the shallow tremor just before midnight had killed at least 105 people and injured nearly 400 more.
Another 13 people were killed, 182 were injured, and 20 went missing in Haidong, Qinghai province, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The earthquake destroyed thousands of homes, many of which were dilapidated brick structures, and forced residents to flee into the freezing streets for safety.
“I was almost scared to death. Look at how my hands and legs are shaking,” said a woman of about 30 in a video posted to a social media account associated with the state-run People’s Daily newspaper.
“As soon as I ran out of the house, the earth on the mountain gave way, thudding on the roof,” she said as she sat swaddled in a blanket outside, cradling a baby.
CCTV footage showed family belongings strewn among the masonry of a house that caved in during the shaking.
In Haidong, an AFP team observed vehicles transporting supplies and workers repairing road barriers.
The quake was the deadliest in China since 2014, when more than 600 people were killed in southwestern Yunnan province.
The western hinterland of China bears the scars of frequent seismic activity, and a massive quake in Sichuan province in 2008 killed or went missing more than 87,000 people, including 5,335 schoolchildren.
The magnitude-5.9 quake struck at a shallow depth at 11:59 p.m. local time (1559 GMT) on Monday night, with an epicentre around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Gansu’s provincial capital, Lanzhou.
The magnitude was reported as 6.2 by China’s state news agency Xinhua, and the shaking was felt as far away as the major city of Xi’an, about 570 kilometers away.
Dozens of smaller aftershocks followed, and officials warned that tremors with magnitudes greater than 5.0 could occur in the coming days.
A USGS-measured magnitude 5.2 earthquake was detected further northwest in the Xinjiang region on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged “all-out efforts” as search and rescue operations began early Tuesday.
Temperatures in the high-altitude area are below freezing, and rescuers should be on the lookout for secondary disasters, he said, according to CCTV.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, provincial officials announced that the quake in Gansu had damaged nearly 5,000 homes.
According to state media, power and water supplies were disrupted in villages near the epicenter, but some power was later restored.
CCTV footage from one of the worst-affected areas showed residents warming themselves by a fire while emergency crews set up tents.
CCTV reported that over 1,400 firefighters and rescue personnel had been dispatched to the disaster area, with another 1,600 remaining “on standby.”
According to the broadcaster and Xinhua, supplies such as 2,500 tents, 20,000 coats, and 5,000 rollaway beds have been sent to Gansu, along with drinking water, blankets, stoves, and instant noodles.
According to CCTV, the central government has diverted 200 million yuan ($28 million) in relief funding to “guarantee the security of people’s lives and property and minimize the impact of disaster losses.”
Footage showed emergency vehicles flashing their lights as they drove along snow-covered highways toward the scene.
Rescue workers in overalls were photographed shoulder to shoulder in the trucks, while others were pictured lining up in ranks to receive instructions.
Other footage showed emergency personnel searching the debris by torchlight and unfolding orange stretchers for the injured.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from Gansu, according to officials.
In China, earthquakes are not uncommon. A shallow 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck the country’s east in August, injuring 23 people and collapsing dozens of buildings. In September 2022, a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan province, killing nearly 100 people.
In 2010, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Qinghai killed or injured 3,000 people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “deep” condolences to his Chinese counterpart Xi on Tuesday.
“In Russia, we share the pain of those who lost their loved ones in the disaster and hope for a speedy recovery for all those injured,” said Putin in a letter, according to a statement from the Kremlin.