Rescue teams quickly responded to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Jiuzhaigou county in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province Tuesday night, killing 20 and leaving 431 others injured, evacuating thousands of tourists.
All 47,000 tourists had been transferred to safer places as of 6 pm, local news site newssc.org reported.
About 38,000 tourists visit Jiuzhaigou daily from Saturday to Monday, according to the Jiuzhai Valley National Park.
The Aba prefecture government told the Global Times Wednesday that more than 1,000 foreigners were being transferred. Reports said four foreign tourists were injured.
The Blue Sky Rescue Team arrived in Jiuzhaigou county at midnight Tuesday and worked overnight trying to help evacuate and rescue tourists, Gou Shaolin, head of the team, told the Global Times.
Gou said many tourists are safe but in shock.
A soldier carries an injured elderly woman to the hospital on Wednesday after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province Tuesday night. Photo: IC
“Part of our job is to comfort and calm them down,” Gou noted.
A tourist surnamed Li told the Global Times that they were watching dramas about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when the current earthquake struck.
“The performers panicked on the stage and shouted, ‘Earthquake! earthquake!’ but we thought the shaking was part of the special effects,” Li said, adding that it took a while for tourists to realize a real earthquake was taking place and began evacuating.
Chinese seismologists warned that there might be more aftershocks in the coming days.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all-out efforts to rapidly organize relief and rescue work, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Xi said authorities should check on the earthquake’s impact, evacuate and settle visitors and local people, and reduce the numbers of deaths and injuries as much as possible, said Xinhua.
Premier Li Keqiang also urged local authorities to go all out in their relief and monitoring work.
Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), confirmed the immediate activation of level-III emergency response procedures, urging civil aviation authorities to cooperate with local government in disaster relief efforts.
The CAAC has instructed airports to keep track of available runways and gate positions while asking airlines to help in the emergency evacuation of tourists in the disaster-hit area.
The National Development and Reform Commission said it plans to give Sichuan 60 million yuan ($8.92 million) to rehabilitate the area’s infrastructure.
The Ministry of Transport has also initiated level-II emergency response procedures and formed a leading group to guide local transportation authorities to aid rescue efforts.
Aside from government agencies, civic organizations and companies are contributing to rescue operations.
The Sichuan Red Cross has received more than 360 million yuan worth of donations as of 12 pm Wednesday, the China News Service (CNS) reported.
Sichuan was not the only area hit by a strong earthquake.
A 6.6-magnitude tremor shook Jinghe county in the Bortala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) announced. Thirty-four people were reportedly injured.
“These two earthquakes were caused by the activity of the Earth’s tectonic plates, and they may not be related to each other,” Xu Deshi, a researcher at the China Earthquake Administration, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that Jinghe and Jiuzhaigou are located on different plates and in different earthquake zones.
However, the fact that the second earthquake occurred soon after the first one may indicate that China has entered a period of relatively high seismic activity, CENC researcher Sun Shihong said.
“An effective warning system needs to be accurate and quick before an earthquake hits. However, its effect is limited to near the quake’s epicenter and works best in areas 100 to 200 kilometers away,” Xu said.
Source: Global Times