- Written by Frances Mau and Christy Cooney
- BBC News
At least 126 people have been killed in northwest China in the country’s deadliest earthquake in 13 years.
A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck the mountainous province of Gansu around midnight on Monday (16:00 GMT), and also shook the neighboring city of Qinghai.
Deaths may rise with more than 700 reported injured in icy conditions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered thousands of rescue crews to be sent to the region, which is among the poorest and most diverse regions in China.
Footage shown on state television and social media on Tuesday showed entire villages divided by the quake, as well as collapsed buildings and homes.
Residents who fled their homes were also seen gathering over makeshift fires in hastily set up evacuation camps. Chinese media reported that temperatures reached -13 degrees Celsius (8.7 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.
Survivors said the tremors felt like they were being “tossed around by huge waves,” and recalled rushing to get out of their apartments.
“I woke up my family and we rushed up all 16 floors in one breath,” said a man named Chen, according to Chinese media.
Local officials in Jishishan County, the hardest-hit in Gansu Province, said more than 5,000 buildings in the area were damaged.
Chinese media quoted the director of the rescue team in Gansu, who attributed the widespread damage to the poor quality of construction in the villages, as many of the houses are old and built of mud.
Gansu is located between the Tibetan and Loess plateaus and borders Mongolia. The remote region is one of China’s poorest and most ethnically diverse regions.
The epicenter of the earthquake was in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, home to several Chinese Muslim groups, including the Hui, Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar peoples.
The Chinese authorities said that the strength of the earthquake reached 6.2 on the Richter scale, while the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recorded the strength of the quake as 5.9 and a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). Local authorities reported that about 10 aftershocks occurred.
On Tuesday, Xinjiang, the province west of Gansu, recorded an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Electricity and water supplies were disrupted across the region, hampering rescue efforts.
Officials say they have only a limited time left to rescue people in sub-zero conditions.
“It’s too cold to bear… -15 degrees Celsius [here]Wang Yi, the main leader of the Blue Sky Rescue Team, told the BBC. Blue Sky is the largest humanitarian NGO in China, with more than 30,000 volunteers across the country.
Wang said he expected the number of casualties to rise. “Now we need to dig deeper [into the rubble]. But there are no large buildings in the area. “So it will go up, but it won’t be much.”
“Every effort should be made to conduct search and rescue operations, treat the injured in a timely manner and minimize losses,” President Xi said.
China is located in an area where a number of tectonic plates meet, particularly the Eurasian, Indian and Pacific plates, an area that is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes.
Last September, more than 60 people were killed when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Sichuan Province.
The Gansu earthquake is the deadliest China has seen since the devastating 2010 earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai Province, which killed nearly 2,700 people.
Additional reporting by Laura Baker in Beijing
If you are in northwest China, how were you affected by the earthquake? Tell us your story via email: [email protected].
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