China earthquake kills 13, injures 199

BEIJING (AFP): The toll from a strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake in southwest China rose to 13 dead and 199 injured on Tuesday as rescuers pulled bodies and survivors from wrecked buildings.

More than 8,000 people were relocated as a large number of structures were damaged or collapsed after the quake struck late Monday near Yibin, in Sichuan province, according to the city government.

State broadcaster CCTV aired footage of rescuers bringing a survivor out of a building’s rubble on a stretcher overnight. Other images were of a woman being helped out of another collapsed structure.

Photographs from Changning county showed an electricity pole knocked down on the roof of a building, a hole in a brick home and broken windows on the street.

Cracks appeared in several roads, and a major highway connecting Yibin and Xuyong county was closed, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Mud and rock slipped from the side of a hill, blocking a road and wrapping around a truck, CCTV footage showed.

More than 12,000 homes were moderately damaged, while 73 buildings have collapsed, Yibin authorities said.

The possibility of thunder and showers over the next two days could complicate the rescue efforts, Xinhua noted.

An early warning alarm system was triggered in the provincial capital Chengdu about one minute before the earthquake struck, the news agency said. The alert rang 10 seconds before it hit Yibin.

A three-second headstart before a tremor hits can prevent 14 percent of casualties, Xinhua said.

Nine people died in Changning county and four others in Gong county, the Yibin city government said on its Twitter-like Weibo account, up from a death toll of 12 earlier in the day.

Rescuers have pulled at least 20 people from the wreckage, and more than 100 people are receiving treatment at hospitals, it said.

More than 500 firefighting teams have been dispatched to the scene. Rescue personnel were also sent with more than 5,000 tents, 10,000 cots and other emergency supplies.

The area was hit by a series of at least four aftershocks, the largest of which had a magnitude of 5.1.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the main quake at 5.8, although the China Earthquake Networks Center, the government seismology authority, put the quake at 6.0.

Earthquakes regularly strike Sichuan, where a powerful 7.9-magnitude quake left 87,000 people dead or missing in 2008.

In February, three earthquakes hit Rongxian county in the province, killing two people and injuring 12 others — casualties that residents blamed on fracking.

Local authorities later halted shale gas mining after thousands of residents protested.