Sichuan earthquake death toll rises to 86, dozens still missing

More than 270 were injured, while the number of missing remained at 35. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - The death toll from a strong earthquake that struck south-west China rose to 86, state media reported Thursday, as rain and possible mudslides threatened the search for dozens of missing people.

The magnitude 6.8 quake struck Luding county in Ganzi prefecture, Sichuan province,  at 12.52pm on Monday, according to the China Earthquake Networks Centre.

State-run newspaper People’s Daily said that 50 people died in Ganzi prefecture, while 36 deaths were reported in neighbouring Ya’an city.

Around 270 others were injured while the number of missing remained at 35, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Weather forecasters issued an orange warning, the second highest, for possible geological disasters in Luding, which can include landslides. A less severe yellow warning was issued for central and western Sichuan.

In China’s four-tier weather warning system, red represents the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

"Since the post-earthquake geological conditions are inherently fragile, and the impact of additional rainfall may lead to landslides and mudslides, the local area needs to beware of secondary disasters," China's meteorological administration said.

The People's Liberation Army, paramilitary police, and fire rescue services dispatched more than 10,000 workers to the area, who continued search operations and landslide clean-up efforts in the remote countryside.

Rescuers braved flash floods and landslides caused by aftershocks to relocate villagers from destroyed homes, often having to haul them through mountainous terrain on ropes and stretchers.

"We also waded through the water to get to Xingfu village. The mountain torrents contain rocks... the stones you can't see in the water pose the greatest threat to us," a rescue team member named Tan Ke told CCTV.

"We quickly used ropes to build a human ladder... when we first started wading, the water reached our knees and thighs. By the time we got to a safe place, the flash flood had reached waist level."

Rescuers search for the injured people after the earthquake in China on Sept 6, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Over 22,000 people have so far been resettled into 124 temporary sites across Ganzi and Ya'an, the state-owned People's Daily newspaper reported.

The paper said over 21,000 students and staff at a school in Shimian county - where Ya'an is located - were safely evacuated within one minute of the quake.

Nearly 1,800 schools in the area had reopened by Wednesday, it added.

Workers raced to fix hundreds of kilometres of power and optical cables, with communications in affected areas "basically restored" as of Thursday, the China Youth Daily reported.

Local authorities have received over 100 million yuan (S$20.17 million) in disaster relief donations so far, the report said.

The quake also rocked buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu - where millions are confined to their homes under a strict Covid-19 lockdown - and in the nearby megacity of Chongqing, residents told AFP. REUTERS, AFP

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