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China Earthquake: At Least 156 Killed, 5,500 Injured After 6.6 Quake Jolts Sichuan

( [email protected] ) Apr 20, 2013 09:41 AM EDT
A deadly 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck China on Saturday morning, where a week ago was the 5th anniversary of 2008 Sichuan Earthquake that claimed 70,000 lives. Authorities disclosed that at least 156 people were killed and around 5,500 were injured.
Rescuers save an injured woman after a 6.6 earthquake hit Baosheng Township in Lushan County, Ya'an City, in China's Sichuan Province on Saturday, April 20, 2013. The powerful earthquake struck the steep hills of Sichuan province Saturday, nearly five years after a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region. Jiang Hongjing, AP

A deadly 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck China on Saturday morning, where a week ago was the 5th anniversary of 2008 Sichuan Earthquake that claimed 70,000 lives. Authorities disclosed that at least 156 people were killed and around 5,500 were injured.

The quake on Saturday morning toppled buildings, triggered landslides and cut off all phone and power connections struck just after 8 a.m. local time in Ya'an city, which is located just 54 miles from the 2008 disaster and lies on the seismically active Longmenshan fault line, according to China Earthquake Administration.

Since the first quake, numerous aftershocks were reported, the largest of which was magnitude 5.1.

Residents in the neighboring provinces and in the provincial capital of Chengdu rushed out of buildings in a panic. According to blog posts on Sina Weibo, many recalled the horrifying memories of the 2008 quake.

China President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang said all efforts must be put into rescuing victims to limit the death toll, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to Xinhua News, more than 7,000 soldiers and armed police were sent to the disaster area as well as more than 1,000 provincial rescue workers and hundreds of doctors.

Premier Li flew by helicopter to the quake zone in Lushan on Saturday afternoon, where he met survivors and local government and army leaders.

"The current, most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours since the quake's occurrence, the golden time for saving lives," said Li, according to Xinhua.

As the region went into the first night after the quake, rain started to fall, slowing rescue work. Forecasts called for more rain in the next several days, and the China Meteorological Administration warned of possible landslides and other geological disasters.

Rescuers gather to rescue a child to safety from her collapsed home after an earthquake hit Ya'an City in Lushan county, in China's Sichuan province. More than 100 people were killed and 3,000 injured when a strong earthquake shook southwest China, wrecking homes and triggering landslides in an area devastated by a major tremor in 2008. AFP/Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday's quake, Chinese bloggers in the quake zone called for help through the internet.

Non-profits and individuals quickly responded with volunteer action, including Li Chengpeng, a Sichuan-based writer and former soccer commentator, whose profile as a social critic rose after the 2008 disaster when he joined rescue efforts and saw the schools firsthand. On his Sina Weibo platform, which has millions of followers, Li posted Saturday that he had organized an expert rescue team to send to Ya'an, and welcomed donations of money or manpower.

Other volunteer efforts also spread via Weibo, and inspirational stories included that of local Ya'an television anchorwoman Chen Ying, who rushed to file reports while dressed in her wedding gown on her wedding day.

Ya’an is a city of 1.5 million people and is considered one of the birthplaces of Chinese tea culture. It is also the home to one of China’s main centres for protecting the giant panda.

The quake struck almost exactly five years since the calamitous Wenchuan quake, a disaster that raised questions about poorly constructed schools that collapsed and killed thousands of students.

The devastating May 2008 quake was 7.9 magnitude.

An aerial photo shows destroyed houses after a powerful earthquake hit Taiping town of Lushan County in Ya'an City, in China's Sichuan Province. The powerful earthquake jolted Sichuan province Saturday near where a devastating quake struck five years ago. Liu Yinghua, AP

A rescuer carries a child to safety after she was pulled out of her collapsed home after an earthquake hit Ya'an City in Lushan county, southwest China's Sichuan province. More than 100 people were killed and 3,000 injured when a strong earthquake shook southwest China on April 20, wrecking homes and triggering landslides in an area devastated by a major tremor in 2008. AFP/Getty Images