A strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit a remote,mostly rural and mountainous area of southwestern Chinas Sichuan province Saturday,killing at least 156 people and injuring about 5,700,close to where a big quake killed almost 70,000 people in 2008.
The earthquake,Chinas worst in three years,occurred at 8.02 a.m. (0002 GMT) in Lushan county near Yaan city and the epicentre had a depth of 12 km,the US Geological Survey said.
The quake was felt by residents in neighbouring provinces and in the provincial capital of Chengdu,causing many people to rush out of buildings,according to accounts on Chinas Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service.
State media said 156 people had been confirmed dead with more than 5,700 injured.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang said all efforts must be put into rescuing victims to limit the death toll.
After arriving at the disaster zone by helicopter,Li directed earthquake relief efforts from a plaza in Longmen township in Lushan,Xinhua said.
Li asked that a road be opened to Baoxing county,one of the most affected by the earthquake,and that rescuers act quickly in their efforts,Xinhua quoted Li as saying.
The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours since the quakes occurrence,the golden time for saving lives, Xinhua news agency quoted Li as saying earlier.
Xinhua said 6,000 troops were heading to the area to help with rescue efforts. State television CCTV said only emergency vehicles were being allowed into Yaan,though Chengdu airport had reopened.
Most of the deaths were concentrated in Lushan,where water and electricity were cut off.
The China Meteorological Association warned of a possibility of landslides occurring in Lushan county on Saturday and Sunday,the agency said in a statement on its website.
Its been a shaky week
April 16: An earthquake,measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale,struck along the Iran-Pakistan border,killing at least 76.
April 17: A 5.0-magnitude quake strikes China,nine injured. The epicentre of the quake was located in the border area between Eryuan and Yangbi counties,with a depth of 11 km.
April 17: An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.1 was reported in Baja California Tuesday evening,according to the US Geological Survey
April 18: A 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook northern Papua New Guinea Wednesday. Reports suggested the area escaped serious damage
April 19: A major 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off northern Japan Thursday,seismologists said,but no tsunami warning was issued