At least 19 people were killed and about 250 others injured in the powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake that jolted a mountainous region in China’s southwest Sichuan province.
The toll could ride further as the rescuers were racing against time to find survivors buried under the rubble.
The massive tremor, which struck the popular tourist destination on Tuesday night, was followed by another quake of 6.6- magnitude in the Xinjiang province. The second tremor was recorded on Wednesday morning.
The massive earthquake in Sichuan struck at 9:19 PM (local time) on Tuesday and the epicentre was monitored at a depth of 20 km, state-run Xinhua new agency reported.
Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, is a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations. More than 34,000 people visited the tourist attraction on Tuesday.
“We were lying on an open ground to seek shelter when a big stone fell and hit my brother right in the leg,” said Romain Vallon, who studies in Beijing.
Five among the dead were visitors to the Jiuzhaigou national park, China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC) said.
So far 31,500 tourists have been relocated. Tourist coaches and private vehicles have been pressed into service to help transport the stranded tourists.
The quake was also felt in the provincial capital Chengdu, about 300 kms south of the epicentre, and other regions in the neighbouring provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi.
President Xi Jinping called for all-out efforts to rapidly organise relief work and rescue the injured people.
Premier Li Keqiang also urged local authorities to go all out in relief and monitoring work.
China’s cabinet, the State Council, sent a national work team to the disaster-hit area to guide relief work. Local governments also activated top-level emergency response procedures.
Sichuan is a quake-prone region. In May 2008, an 8.0- magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan and killed more than 80,000 people. In 2013, a 7.0-magnitude quake hit Lushan, in which 196 people were killed.
(With inputs from agencies)