Earthquake in northwestern China kills at least 111 people

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In this photo provided by Wang Xi, students gather outdoors after evacuating from their dormitories at the Lanzhou University Yuzhong campus in Lanzhou in northwestern China’s Gansu province Tuesday, Dec. 19, after an earthquake hit the area. At least 100 were killed in a magnitude 6.2 earthquake in northwestern China, the country’s state media reported on Tuesday.
A government worker looks at the debris of a house brought down in the earthquake in Jishishan county in northwest China’s Gansu province Tuesday, Dec. 19. At least 100 people were killed in a magnitude 6.2 earthquake in a cold and mountainous region in northwestern China, the country’s state media reported on Tuesday.

BEIJING >> At least 111 people were killed in a magnitude 6.2 earthquake in a cold and mountainous region in northwestern China, the country’s state media reported on Tuesday.

Search and rescue operations were underway in Gansu province and neighboring Qinghai province. The earthquake left more than 300 people injured, damaged houses and roads, and knocked out power and communication lines, according to the media reports.

State broadcaster CCTV said that 100 people died in the province of Gansu and another 11 in the neighboring province of Qinghai in the quake, which occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles) just before midnight on Monday.

The quake struck in Gansu’s Jishishan county, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the provincial boundary with Qinghai. The epicenter was about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) southwest of Beijing, the Chinese capital.

More than 300 people had been treated for injuries as of early morning, CCTV said. At least 140 people were injured in Qinghai and another 96 in Gansu, according to CCTV and the official Xinhua News Agency.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 5.9.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that there was damage to water and electricity lines, as well as transportation and communications infrastructure.

The earthquake was felt in Lanzhou, the Gansu provincial capital, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of the epicenter.

University students in Lanzhou rushed out of their dorms, according to a social media post that had images showing young people hastily leaving a building and standing outside. Many wore only their pajamas on a cold winter night, said Wang Xi, a student at Lanzhou University who made the post.

“The earthquake was too intense,” she said. “My legs went weak, especially when we ran downstairs from the dormitory.”

Tents, folding beds and quilts were being sent to the disaster area, CCTV said. It quoted Chinese leader Xi Jinping as calling for an all-out search and rescue effort to minimize the casualties. The overnight low in the area was minus 15 to 9 degrees Celsius (5 to 16 degrees Fahrenheit), the China Meteorological Administration said.

A video posted by the Ministry of Emergency Management showed emergency workers in orange uniforms using rods to try to move heavy pieces of what looked like concrete debris at night. Other nighttime videos distributed by state media showed workers lifting out a victim and helping a slightly stumbling person to walk in an area covered with light snow.

Middle school student Ma Shijun ran out of his dormitory barefoot without even putting on a coat, according to a Xinhua report. It said the strong tremors left his hands a bit numb, and that teachers quickly organized the students on the playground.

Earthquakes are somewhat common in the mountainous area of western China that rises up to form the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau.

Last year in September, at least 74 people were reported killed in a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, triggering landslides and shaking buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu, where 21 million residents were under a COVID-19 lockdown.

China’s deadliest earthquake in recent years was a 7.9 magnitude quake in 2008 that killed nearly 90,000 people in Sichuan. The temblor devastated towns, schools and rural communities outside Chengdu, leading to a years-long effort to rebuild with more resistant materials.