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156 killed as 7.0 quake hits China's Sichuan

156 killed as 7.0 quake  hits China
Highlights

Over 5,500 people injured in massive destruction Quake struck steep hills in south-western province of Sichuan Thousands of soldiers and others...

  • Over 5,500 people injured in massive destruction
  • Quake struck steep hills in south-western province of Sichuan
  • Thousands of soldiers and others mobilised for rescue ops

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Beijing (AP): A powerful earthquake struck the steep hills of China's south-western Sichuan province on Saturday, leaving at least 156 people dead and more than 5,500 injured, nearly five years after a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region.

Saturday's quake, while not as destructive as that in 2008, toppled buildings, triggered landslides and disrupted phone and power connections in Lushan county. The village of Longmen was hit particularly hard - nearly all buildings had been destroyed and the state television showed footage of soldiers digging through rubble.

Rescuers turned the square outside the Lushan County Hospital into a triage center, where medical personnel bandaged bleeding victims, according to footage on China Central Television. Rescuers dynamited boulders that had fallen across roads to reach Longmen and other damaged areas lying farther up the mountain valleys.

Xinhua said at least 156 people had died. The government of Ya'an city, which administers Lushan, said in a statement that more than 2,600 people were injured, 330 of them severely.

The quake � measured by China's seismological bureau at magnitude 7.0 and the US Geological Survey at 6.6 � struck the steep hills of Lushan county shortly after 8 am, when many people were at home, sleeping or having breakfast. People in their underwear and wrapped in blankets ran into the streets of Ya'an and even the provincial capital of Chengdu, 115 km east of Lushan, according to photos, video and accounts posted online.

The quake's shallow depth, less than 13 km, likely magnified the impact, and CCTV showed footage from local security cameras that were shaking. Chengdu's airport shut down for about an hour before reopening, though many flights were cancelled or delayed, state media said.

Lushan, where the quake struck, lies where the fertile Sichuan plain meets foothills that eventually rise to the Tibetan plateau and sits atop the Longmenshan fault. It was along that fault line that the devastating magnitude-7.9 quake struck on May 12, 2008, leaving more than 90,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead in one of the worst natural disasters to strike China in recent decades.

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