The death toll from a massive earthquake in China’s mountainous southwest rose to 74 on Wednesday as thousands were evacuated to makeshift shelters.
A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit Sichuan province on Monday, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the world’s earthquake reference organization.
The epicenter is located in Luding, an area of valleys, turbulent rivers and narrow roads on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, about 200 km west of the provincial capital of Chengdu.
Forty people have died in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and 34 people in neighboring Shimian County, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper People’s Daily reported on Wednesday.
More than 21,000 people have been evacuated from areas prone to landslides or building collapses, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Rescuers are still trying to reach the isolated villages to help the residents and find potential survivors. Dozens of people are still considered missing.
“My head was stuck between two pillars and my legs were between tables,” a woman who spent nearly five hours in a destroyed hotel in the earthquake-hit town of Moxy told provincial media Red Star News.
“I was made to lie down in a certain position. I resigned myself,” she added.
“I thought about my kids, wondering if their school had collapsed. I imagined them locked inside, crying and crying out to me for help.”
Earthquakes on Monday also rocked buildings in the provincial capital Chengdu, where 21 million people are currently confined to their homes due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
According to the China Seismic Network Center (CENC), at least 13 aftershocks of magnitude 3 or more have been recorded since the first earthquake.
According to the army, in addition to several hundred firefighters, about 2,000 soldiers have been mobilized to help the population and participate in relief efforts.
In particular, they have set up numerous makeshift camps for residents who cannot return to their destroyed or weakened homes.