A 7-magnitude earthquake jolted a remote but popular tourist destination in China's southwest tonight, killing at least seven people and injuring nearly 90, the state media reported, with officials fearing the death toll could be much higher. The massive quake struck Jiuzhaigou tourist spot with its epicentre at Zhangzha town in Sichuan Province, said the publicity department of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, which administers the province. Citing a China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC) statement, the Xinhua news agency reported that the earthquake struck at 9.19 PM (local time) at a depth of 20 kilometres. At least 107 aftershocks had been recorded by 11 PM local time), according to the CENC. The provincial government office said that seven people had died and 88 were reported injured following the quake. But officials feared the death toll could be much higher as rescue work peaks tomorrow, state-run television reported. All the dead were tourists, it said. The condition of 30 injured was stated to be critical. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have called for all-out efforts to organise relief and rescue. Local governments have activated top-level emergency response procedures. The Western Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has also activated an emergency response.
Thirty three people carrying communication equipment including maritime satellites have been rushed to the region. Eleven helicopters and more than 40 vehicles were ready for rescue operations, the news agency reported. More than 600 fire officers and soldiers, and eight sniffer dogs were dispatched to the region after the quake. The China Earthquake Administration has activated level-I emergency response procedures following the earthquake. China has a four-level earthquake emergency response system, with level-I being the top. An employee at the Jiuzhaigou National Park said houses had collapsed in one of the valleys, and buildings were being evacuated. The park officials said it had 38,799 visitors today. Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, is a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations. Photos posted on social media showed shattered windows, damaged walls and people standing out on streets. Sangey, a staff worker with the popular Jiuzhaigou tourist site, told Xinhua over telephone that some houses in the scenic spot collapsed and authorities are organising young people to help evacuate residents. Li Changyong, head of the Jiuzhaigou county health and family planning bureau, said the quake was strongly felt in the county seat, 35 km from the epicentre, and many residents rushed outside their buildings. Yu Qian, a local taxation bureau official, said she felt strong tremor in her home on the fifth floor. Yu said the power was cut off in her neighbourhood and quake disrupted telephone service linking the scenic area where some of her colleagues worked and lived. The quake was also strongly felt in the provincial capital Chengdu, about 300 km south of the epicentre. The quake also disrupted railway services. The Sichuan railway bureau suspended 14 trains.
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