BEIJING (Reuters) – An earthquake measuring 6.5 in magnitude struck China’s remote and mountainous southwestern province of Sichuan on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, killing five people and trapping 100 tourists in a popular scenic spot.
The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200 km (120 miles) west-northwest of the city of Guangyuan at a depth of 10 km (6 miles), the USGS said. It had earlier put the quake at magnitude 6.6 and 32 km deep.
The Sichuan earthquake administration said the epicenter of the tremor was in Ngawa prefecture, largely populated by ethnic Tibetans, many of whom are nomadic herders, but also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a popular tourist destination.
The Sichuan government said five people had been killed and more than 60 were injured, 30 of them seriously. The official People’s Daily said the dead were all tourists.
Sichuan’s government added that 100 tourists had been trapped by a landslide, but that there were no reports of any deaths or injuries amongst them yet.
Sichuan government spokesman Chen Weide said it was unclear at present what had happened to them and whether they had been buried or were just trapped by a blocked road.
The official Xinhua news agency said the reception area in a hotel had collapsed, trapping some people, but that 500 people had already been safely evacuated from the building.
While there was no confirmation of their nationalities, few foreign tourists go to such remote areas, meaning the dead were likely to be Chinese.
The area is frequently struck by earthquakes.
Pictures on state media-run social media sites showed some damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles having fallen from buildings and people gathering outdoors.
State television said electricity had now largely been restored to the affected areas and the military was also sending rescuers to help with relief efforts. Jiuzhaigou airport was operating as normal after the runway was checked for damage, the report added.
A police official told state television that there had been some panic among the tourists when the quake hit.
The Sichuan government said on one of its official social media sites that more than 38,000 tourists were currently visiting Jiuzhaigou.
Shaking was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu and as far away as Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, according to users of Chinese social media.
A quake in Sichuan in May 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.
Writing by Nick Macfie and Ben Blanchard; Editing by…