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Sichuan, China: Earthquake leaves three dead and 60 injured

Sichuan, China: Earthquake leaves three dead and 60 injured

Local authorities rated the quake at a magnitude of 6.0, while the US Geological Survey (USGS) rated it at 5.4 on an 8-point scale.

The quake struck early in the morning, with the epicenter located about 52 kilometers southwest of Yongchuan District in Chongqing, with an initial depth of 10 kilometers, according to the USGS.

Pictures show damaged buildings with windows blown out and the ground outside covered with dirt, including fallen trees and bricks from fallen walls.

At least 1,221 homes have collapsed and more than 3,000 have been severely damaged, according to state tabloid Global Times.

“I woke up to the shaking and saw the chandelier in my room swing dramatically and the desk shook,” a resident, surname Tang, told the Global Times. “It’s been a long time since an earthquake of this magnitude has occurred.”

Chinese authorities launched rescue efforts in the morning, with the provincial government activating a level 2 response, the second highest in China’s four-tiered earthquake system, according to state news media Xinhua.

Luzhou City, home to about five million people, was among the hard-hit areas. Thousands of soldiers and relief workers have been sent to rescue operations along with rescue equipment, medical equipment, makeshift surgical vehicles and heavy machinery. Tents have been set up for evacuees in a nearby village.

Experts say a more severe earthquake is unlikely, although there may be aftershocks, Xinhua reported.

Sichuan is located along one of several seismic belts in China, making it prone to earthquakes. A local employee in Luzhou told the Global Times that although residents are used to earthquakes, they are usually of a lower magnitude – and Thursday’s earthquake was significantly stronger than average.

A number of major earthquakes have occurred along especially a tectonic boundary – the Longmenshan fault – which runs through the mountains of Sichuan. It was here that the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, also known as the Wenchuan earthquake, hit.

The devastating earthquake of 7.9 — near the top of the scale — killed nearly 90,000 people and caused tremors in cities more than 900 miles away. Even 10 years later, not all of the damage has been repaired from the quake site, and survivors told CNN they still wore deep scars.

The 2008 earthquake also highlighted poor construction standards and building regulations that were prevalent at a time when megacities were being built at breakneck speed during China’s economic and urban boom.

Although the authorities at the time cracked down hard on activists and critics demanding accountability – which provoked public outrage – the government eventually tightened the rules and strengthened enforcement.

Since 2008, the country has invested heavily in disaster preparedness, retrofitting buildings in areas prone to earthquakes and implementing regular earthquake drills for relief workers and school children. Beijing has also directed tens of thousands of dollars to develop seismic science and satellites, according to Reuters.

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