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President calls for all--out relief efforts

By HUANG?ZHILING in?Changning,?Sichuan and?TAN?YINGZI?in?Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-19 03:18
Rescuers carry a child to an ambulance on Tuesday in Changning, Yibin, Sichuan province. A 6.0 magnitude quake struck Changning at 10:55 pm on Monday. LIU ZHONGJUN / CHINA NEWS SERVICE

President Xi Jinping ordered all-out efforts to organize relief work and rescue operations for the injured on Tuesday after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Sichuan province on Monday night.

The quake struck Yibin's Changning county at 10:55 pm, killing 13 and injuring 199, including six who were still in critical condition as of 4 pm on Tuesday, the provincial Bureau of Emergency Management said.

Most of the deaths were the result of collapsing homes, rescuers said. So far, 14 people have been rescued from the debris. More than 140,000 people have been affected by the quake. The temblor damaged homes and roadways, and interrupted power and communication services.

Heavy rains may take place over the next several days in the earthquake zone, which may affect emergency rescue efforts, the China Meteorological Administration said on Tuesday.

The disaster has drawn national attention, with Xi focusing on rescue work and providing instructions. He said relief and rescue efforts were the highest priorities, along with preventing further deaths or injuries.

He said the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police Force should support and assist the efforts of local governments. Related departments should work scientifically, strengthen earthquake monitoring to prevent secondary disasters, restore water and power supplies and get transportation and telecommunication up and running as soon as possible.

He also said it was important to resettle people affected by the quake in safe areas. China has entered its rainy season, a time when downpours frequently occur in parts of the country, causing floods and landslides and as well as casualties and property damage.

Children entertain themselves in a disaster relief tent on Tuesday in Shuanghe, a township in Changning county, Sichuan province, after an earthquake struck on Monday night. LIU CHANGSONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Xi asked leaders of the Communist Party of China and officials in affected areas to firmly establish a people-centered approach and actively organize flood control and relief efforts to safeguard lives and property.

Premier Li Keqiang also instructed various departments to verify the disaster situation, do their utmost to rescue people, repair damaged transport and telecommunications infrastructure, publish timely updates and maintain social order in the quake zone. The Ministry of Emergency Management has activated an emergency response and sent work teams to stricken areas to provide guidance.

The National Development and Reform Commission has allocated 50 million yuan ($7.2 million) to support emergency rescue and infrastructure construction. The quake rocked Yibin, and people in nearby cities, including Chengdu and Chongqing, felt the temblor.

A series of aftershocks have been measured, including one of magnitude 5.1. Wei Lai, 25, an office worker at an IT company in Chengdu, 260 kilometers from the epicenter, was in bed on the fifth floor of an apartment building when the quake struck.

"I felt the bed shake violently twice in less than a minute. I was terrified and was in panic even after the shaking stopped," Wei said. Because of the earthquake and its aftershocks, some railway operations were affected, including in Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces and Chongqing, where services were delayed or canceled, said China Railway Corp. Operations at Chengdu's airport were not affected.

Rescuers search for people trapped at Shuanghe township, after an earthquake hit Changning, Sichuan province, June 18, 2019. [Photo by Zeng Lang/]

Sixty-one seconds before seismic waves generated by the quake reached Chengdu from Changning, some residents received an early warning. Such early warnings are designed to help provide people with an opportunity to move quickly to safety before being hit, said Chen Huizhong, a senior research fellow at the China Earthquake Administration's Institute of Geophysics.

A man in Yibin surnamed Chen was playing mahjong when the quake struck. He rushed home and brought his wife and daughter to a public square.

"My daughter was very calm and ran down very fast," Chen was quoted as saying by Red Star News. "She and other students had learned in school how to respond to earthquakes.

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