BEIJING (AP) — A strong earthquake shook a mountainous region in southwestern China near a famous national park Tuesday evening, killing five tourists and injuring 63 other people, while causing power to be cut and phone networks to be knocked out.
The magnitude 6.5 quake struck a region bordered by the provinces of Sichuan and Gansu at a depth of just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.
The China Earthquake Networks Center measured the earthquake at magnitude 7.0 and said it struck at a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles). The quake occurred at about 9:20 p.m. near Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations, the Chinese agency said.
The area is located on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in northern Sichuan province, home to many Tibetan and other ethnic minority villages.
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A man surnamed Song who answered the phone at a local emergency office in Aba prefecture, where the Jiuzhaigou national park is located, said the nearby town of Zhangzha reported the deaths and injuries. Song did not say where the five tourists who died were from.
Earthquakes are common in China’s west, although the low population density there often means casualties are low. China’s deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude 7.9 temblor with a depth of 19 kilometers (12 miles), struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.
The epicenter in Tuesday’s quake was about 39 kilometers (24 miles) from the county of Jiuzhaigou, which has a population of around 80,000, in an area that’s 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) above sea level. It was 285 kilometers (177 miles) from Chengdu, the densely populated capital of Sichuan province, according to the Chinese center.
The official Xinhua News Agency said strong tremors could be felt in Chengdu. The Sichuan provincial government’s news website said that after the quake struck, a number of train services to Chengdu and other cities were suspended.
Jiuzhaigou county was suffering from a massive power outage following the quake, Song said. Local officials were being sent to the town of Zhangzha, which was closest to the quake’s epicenter.
“The tremors were very strong,” said a woman in Jiuzhaigou town who gave only her surname, Wang, and said she worked for a travel…