Rescuers Battle Freezing, authorities say a massive earthquake struck a mountainous region of northern China, damaging homes and putting families out in subzero temperatures in the country’s deadliest quake in nine years.
Rescuers Battle Freezing Cold as Earthquake Death Toll in China Soars
Rescuers in northwest China’s rural communities sifted through the rubble of collapsed homes in frigid temperatures after the country’s biggest earthquake in years killed at least 127 people.
According to state media, as of Tuesday afternoon, the shallow tremor on Monday just before midnight had killed at least 113 people and injured more than 530 others in poor Gansu province. According to the People’s Daily, 14 people perished and 198 were injured in Haidong, in nearby Qinghai province.
According to state broadcaster CCTV, the earthquake damaged more than 155,000 structures and sent citizens fleeing into the frigid streets for safety.
AFP reporters reported massive fractures going through the outside and internal walls of a brick residence near the epicenter, as well as the roof of a structure that had caved in.
“I am 70 years old, and I have never experienced such a powerful earthquake in my life,” said Ma Wenchang, a resident. “I can’t live here anymore because it’s too dangerous.” My relatives have been moved somewhere.”
In another site, the top of a mosque had toppled sideways, while another structure had been reduced to rubble. The roads were clogged with emergency vehicles, and the AFP team observed trucks with red banners that proclaimed “earthquake relief supplies.”
As night fell, volunteers rushed to pitch tents in a town center to serve as a base for rescuers. Several military vehicles were stationed nearby. “The most urgent task for us is to make things ready quickly as temperatures will reach -17 (degrees Celsius) tonight,” a member of the group told AFP.
The quake was the deadliest in China since 2014 when over 600 people were killed in southwestern Yunnan province. The western frontier of China bears the wounds of periodic seismic activity, and a massive quake in Sichuan province in 2008 killed or went missing more than 87,000 people, including 5,335 kids.
The magnitude-5.9 quake occurred at a shallow depth around 1559 GMT on Monday night, with an epicenter roughly 100 kilometers from Gansu’s province capital, Lanzhou, according to the US Geological Survey.
Footage showed emergency responders searching through debris by torchlight and unfolding orange stretchers for the injured. The magnitude was quoted as 6.2 by China’s national news agency Xinhua, and the shaking was felt as far away as the main city of Xi’an, roughly 570 kilometers distant.
Dozens of lesser aftershocks followed, and officials warned that tremors with magnitudes greater than 5.0 could occur in the next days. On Tuesday morning, the USGS reported a magnitude 5.2 earthquake further northwest in the Xinjiang region.
The Freezing Temperatures
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “all-out efforts” as search and rescue operations began early Tuesday. Rescuers should be on the lookout for secondary disasters because of the tough conditions in the high-altitude area, he said, according to CCTV.
According to state media, power and water supplies were disrupted in areas near the epicenter, however, some electricity was eventually restored. According to officials, hundreds of people have been evacuated in Gansu.
Thousands of firefighters and rescue workers have been dispatched to the disaster area, and official media reports that 2,500 tents, 20,000 coats, and 5,000 rollaway beds have been delivered to Gansu.
CCTV said that the central government has allocated $28 million in relief assistance to “guarantee the security of people’s lives and property, as well as minimize the impact of disaster losses.”
In China, earthquakes are not uncommon. A shallow 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck the eastern section of the country in August, wounding 23 people and damaging scores of buildings. A 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan province in September 2022, killing around 100 people.
In 2010, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Qinghai killed or injured 3,000 people.