By Matthew Walsh

At least seven people were killed when a strong earthquake struck southwestern China on Monday, state media reported, as violent tremors in a remote region damaged homes and left some areas without electricity.

Sichuan China
The Sichuan province. Photo: Google Map.

The Magnitude 6.6 quake hit around 43 kilometres (26 miles) southeast of the city of Kangding in Sichuan province at a depth of 10 kilometres, according to the US Geological Survey.

Tremors shook buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu — where millions are confined to their homes under a strict Covid lockdown — and in the nearby megacity of Chongqing, local residents told AFP.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that at least seven people died and at least one town had suffered “severe damage” from mountain landslides triggered by the quake.

A road to another town was blocked while telecommunications lines in areas home to more than 10,000 people were severed, according to CCTV.

The shocks also forced some power stations offline in the areas of Garze and Ya’an, the broadcaster said.

China earthquake
Photo: Weibo.

“I felt it quite strongly,” said Chen, a resident of Chengdu.

“Some of my neighbours on the ground floor said they felt it very noticeably,” she added.

“But because Chengdu is currently under epidemic management, people aren’t allowed to leave their residential compounds, so many of them rushed out into their courtyards.”

A video posted online by the China Earthquake Networks Center showed boulders thundering down mountainsides in stricken Luding county, kicking up clouds of dust as tremors swayed roadside telephone wires.

State media reported that several aftershocks were recorded in nearby areas. A smaller Magnitude 4.6 tremor hit eastern Tibet less than an hour after the initial quake, according to the USGS.

Kangding in Sichuan
Kangding city, Sichuan, China. Photo: NoGhost, via Wikicommon

Hundreds of rescue personnel were dispatched to the epicentre while workers attempted to clear roads blocked by landslides, according to state broadcaster CGTN.

Photos published by state media showed officials in military fatigues heaving shovels and other equipment along a highway — all while wearing face masks as a Covid-19 precaution.

A resident of Chongqing said the quake was “pretty noticeable” and that it had shaken the lights and furniture in his fifth-floor apartment.

“I was pretty scared,” he told AFP, “but it didn’t seem to faze people here.”

Summer of extremes

Earthquakes are fairly common in China, especially in the country’s seismically active southwest.

An 8.0-magnitude quake in 2008 in Sichuan’s Wenchuan county left tens of thousands dead and caused enormous damage.

At least four people were killed and dozens more injured after two earthquakes in southwestern China in June.

That month a shallow 6.1-magnitude quake hit a sparsely populated area about 100 kilometres west of Chengdu.

It was followed three minutes later by a second quake of magnitude 4.5 in a nearby county, where the deaths and injuries occurred.

Authorities in Chengdu extended the city’s virus lockdown on Sunday as they fight a Covid flare-up with hundreds of cases.

The region has also suffered a summer of extreme weather, with a record-breaking heatwave noticeably drying rivers in Chongqing.

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