Residents huddled outdoors Saturday night in a town near the epicenter of a powerful earthquake that struck the steep hills of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, leaving at least 160 people dead and more than 6,700 injured.
Saturday morning’s earthquake triggered landslides and disrupted phone and power connections in mountainous Lushan county five years after a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region. The village of Longmen was hit particularly hard, with authorities saying nearly all the buildings there had been destroyed in a frightening minute-long shaking by the quake.
In nearby Ya’an town, where aftershocks could be felt nearly 20 hours after the quake, residents sat in groups outside convenience stores watching the news on television sets. Fourteen-year-old Wang Xing sat with her family on chairs by the roadside in the cool night air, a large blanket on her lap.
Wang and her relatives said they planned to spend the night in their cars. “We don’t feel safe sleeping at home tonight,” said Wang, a student. She said the quake left tears on the walls of her family’s house. “It was very scary when it happened. I ran out of my bed and out of the house. I didn’t even have my shoes on.”
Along the main roads leading to the worst-hit county of Lushan, ambulances, fire engines and military trucks piled high with supplies waited in long lines, some turning back to try other routes when roads were impassable.
Rescuers turned the square outside the Lushan County Hospital into a triage center, where medical personnel bandaged bleeding victims, according to footage on China Central Television. Rescuers dynamited boulders that had fallen across roads to reach Longmen and other damaged areas lying farther up the mountain valleys, state media reported.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived Saturday afternoon by helicopter in Ya’an to direct rescue efforts, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
“The current priority is to save lives,” Li said, after visiting hospitals, tents and climbing on a pile of rubble to view the devastation, Xinhua said.
The China Earthquake Administration said at least 160 people had died, and more than 6,700 were injured. At least 96 people were killed in Lushan, and in the jurisdiction of Ya’an, which administers Lushan, 19 people were reported missing, the administration said.