By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Aug. 9: Not far from Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu in the scenic Zhitsa-Degu County (ch. Jiuzhaigou County), a massive earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale hit late last night.
Authorities have announced that the death toll is 19 with 247 injured, 40 of them in critical condition after the quake struck around 9:20 pm local time on Tuesday.
According to US Geological services, the epicenter of the quake was 284 kilometres (176 miles) north of the provincial capital Chengdu and struck at a depth of 10 kilometers. Another quake registering 6.3 magnitude in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, close to the border to Kazakhstan, earlier this morning was also reported.
Inter Continental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise after an earthquake in Jiuzhaigou County, eastern Tibet's Sichuan Province. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Jiuzhaigou County Tuesday night. photo- Xinhua_Fan Peishen.jpg
Among the causalities in Sichuan earthquake are tourists, as the region attracts healthy inflow of tourists that flock to the nearby Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a UNESCO world heritage site. Sichuan province authorities announced that 45,000 tourists had been evacuated with close to 1,000 more still waiting to leave since the calamity.
Relief and rescue operations are underway with 400 fire trucks and more than 1,100 firefighters on the scene along with 55 life detectors, 30 rescue dogs and 24 generators, China’s state run CCTV said. The China Earthquake Administration has declared Level I emergency response, the highest of its four levels in the region.
It is feared that as debris and rubble of the 130,000 houses and properties damaged in the quake is slowly unearthed, the death toll will rise.
In 2008, not far from the current spot in Sichuan Province, a massive quake resulted in the death of more than 70,000 people and the destruction of properties on a large scale.