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Nineteen dead, 263 injured by earthquake in Tibetan county in Sichuan Province

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake which struck a remote Tibetan area in what is now part of China's Sichuan Province. (Photo courtesy: news.xinhuanet.com)
A 7.0-magnitude earthquake which struck a remote Tibetan area in what is now part of China’s Sichuan Province. (Photo courtesy: news.xinhuanet.com)

(TibetanReview.net, Aug10, 2017) – Nineteen people were killed, 263 injured and some 60,000 people, mostly tourists, evacuated following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake which struck a remote Tibetan area in what is now part of China’s Sichuan Province on Aug 8.

The dead include eight tourists and two locals while the identities of the remaining nine were not yet known. China’s official Xinhua news agency said Aug 10 that those evacuated included 126 non-Chinese foreigners. And Taiwan has said all the 341 tourists travelling in 19 tour groups from the country were safe.

The earthquake had hit the sparsely populated Jiuzhaigou (Tibetan: Namphel or Namphing) County in Aba (Ngawa) Prefecture at 9:19 pm and its epicentre was recorded at a depth of 20 km (12 miles) below the township of Zhangzha. The report said the population density of the county was 15 people per square km.

Xinhua said strong tremors could be felt in the provincial capital Chengdu, located 285 kilometres (177 miles) away. Many places in Qinghai and Gansu also felt the tremor, reported rfa.org/English Aug 8. It was also felt as far away as Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, reported China’s official Chinadaily.com.cn Aug 9.

Zhangzha is located about 39 kilometers (24 miles) from the county of Jiuzhaigou, which has a population of around 80,000. When the quake hit, 35,000 tourists were in Zhangzha Township, reported Xinhua Aug 9.

Jiuzhaigou (literally meaning ‘Valley of Nine Villages’; Zitsa Degu in Tibetan) is a popular tourist destination in the mountains on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

The Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1992. It is a 720 square km site which includes plateau lakes, waterfalls and mountains. It was reported to have logged 5.14 million tourists in 2016.

The US Geological Survey has said the earthquake’s magnitude was 6.5 and its depth just 9 kilometres (5.5 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.

Following the earthquake, train services to Chengdu and other cities were suspended and Jiuzhaigou County had a massive power outage.

The China Earthquake Administration initially activated level-I emergency response procedures. However, it was lowered to Level II at 12:24 am Aug 9 morning, based on a comprehensive evaluation of the quake, reported en.people.cn, the website of China’s party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, Aug 9. China has a four-level earthquake emergency response system, with level-I being the top, noted Xinhua Aug 9. The death toll for a Level I response must be 300 or more, the report said.

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