HONG KONG — A strong earthquake and a series of aftershocks have struck a mountainous region of northwestern China, killing at least 127 people, officials said Tuesday. Many people were still buried under the rubble in the area in the mountainous Tibetan Plateau.
The magnitude-6.2 earthquake hit Jishishan County in Gansu province before midnight local time Monday, and also jolted the neighboring province of Qinghai. Tremors lasted for about 20 seconds, according to the state-run CCTV, and were felt in the city of Lanzhou in Gansu, 65 miles from the epicenter.
“The earthquake was too intense,” said Wang Xi, a student from Lanzhou University, who posted images showing people hastily leaving their dormitories, The Associated Press reported. “My legs went weak, especially when we ran downstairs.”
Rescue operations were underway throughout the night, with temperatures hitting 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Authorities deployed more than 4,000 firefighters, soldiers and police officers to the affected areas.
Nine aftershocks with magnitude-3.0 or higher were recorded as of 10 a.m. (9 p.m. ET Monday), Gao Xiaoming, deputy director of the Earthquake Administration of Gansu, said in a news conference.
Earthquakes are common in the region, where seven earthquakes with magnitude-5.0 or higher have been registered since 1900, he said.
Han Shujun, a spokesperson for the Gansu provincial emergency management department, said that authorities have asked the public to not travel to the epicenter, some 800 miles southwest of Beijing, to avoid traffic congestion.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an “all-out” effort to save people, according to the Xinhua news agency. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force will also be carrying out relief work.
The ministries of finance and emergency management allocated 200 million yuan ($28 million) to the two provinces to “assist local efforts in earthquake relief.”
As of 1 p.m. (midnight ET), 113 people were dead in Gansu and 536 wounded, the regional government said on its official social media account.
Around 14 people were confirmed dead in Qinghai, state media reported. Another 20 went missing after being buried in a landslide triggered by the earthquake, AP reported, citing the China News Service.
CCTV said that there was damage to water and electricity lines, as well as transportation and communications infrastructure.
In September last year, more than 70 people were killed in a magnitude-6.8 earthquake in Sichuan, a province located in southwestern China. Previously, in 2008, an even deadlier earthquake hit that same province, killing almost 90,000 people, and reached a magnitude of 7.9.