BEIJING • The death toll from two strong earthquakes in China rose to 12 yesterday, with 134 people hurt, state media said, as rescuers pulled bodies and survivors from wrecked buildings in a part of the country that often suffers strong tremors.
The quakes, about 30 minutes apart, hit the south-western province of Sichuan on Monday, with shaking felt in regional cities such as the provincial capital of Chengdu and the metropolis of Chongqing.
A quake of magnitude 5.9 was followed by one of 5.2 magnitude, both at a depth of 10km and centred near Changning county, said the US Geological Survey.
More than 4,000 people were relocated as dozens of structures were damaged or collapsed following the quakes late on Monday, according to the city government.
There were several aftershocks, the China Earthquake Administration said, while the US quake agency recorded one of magnitude 5.2 yesterday.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of rescuers taking a survivor out of the rubble of a building on a stretcher. Other images showed a woman being helped out of another collapsed structure.
Images from Changning county showed an electricity pole knocked down on the roof of a building, a hole in a brick home and broken windows on the street.
Cracks appeared in several roads and a major highway connecting Yibin city and Xuyong county was closed, according to the official Xinhua news agency. It reported that a hotel close to the epicentre collapsed, but there was no immediate news of casualties.
An early warning alarm system was triggered in Chengdu about one minute before the earthquake struck, Xinhua said. The alert rang 10 seconds before the quake hit Yibin. A three-second head start before an earthquake strikes can prevent 14 per cent of casualties, Xinhua said.
Nine people died in Changning county and three others in Qixian county, the Yibin city government said in its Twitter-like Weibo account, up from an initial death toll of six overnight.
Xinhua said more than 50 people were being treated in two hospitals.
Earthquakes regularly strike Sichuan, where a powerful 7.9-magnitude quake left 87,000 people dead or missing in 2008.