Northwest China earthquake death toll increases to 127

A magnitude-6.2 earthquake has struck one of China's poorest regions, killing at least 127 people, injuring hundreds and bringing down mud houses in remote villages that never stood a chance.

Chinese state media arriving at the sixth commune of Dahe village, one of the worst-hit areas in China's northwestern Gansu province, found many houses were either at risk of collapse, or had already crumbled to the ground, especially homes built from earth and clay.

"I've lived for more than 80 years and had never seen such a big earthquake," said an old man who was being carried out of his damaged home by rescuers.

Rescuers transfer an injured person at earthquake-hit Dahe Village in northwest China.

More than 155,000 homes in Gansu were either damaged or destroyed.

The quake rocked Gansu's Jishishan county just before midnight local time on Monday, at a depth of 10km. The epicentre was 5km from the provincial border straddling Gansu and Qinghai, where strong tremors were also felt.

Authorities have mobilised an array of emergency responses after the quake wrecked roads and infrastructure, triggered landslides, and half buried a village in silt. But rescue work has proved challenging in sub-zero temperatures, after a powerful cold snap swept across the country.

Earthquakes are common in provinces such as Gansu, lying on the northeastern boundary of the tectonically active Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. China's deadliest quake in recent decades was in 2008 when one of magnitude-8.0 struck Sichuan, killing nearly 70,000 people.

By lunch time on Tuesday, authorities in Gansu had reported 113 dead and 536 injured.

The death tally in Qinghai stood at 14 with 198 injured, later in the afternoon.

Officially, 20 people remained missing.

A person injured in an earthquake is taken to hospital in Gansu.
Search and rescue operations are under way in China's northwest after a deadly earthquake.

Earthquakes are common in western provinces such as Gansu, lying on the eastern boundary of the tectonically active Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. 

China's deadliest quake in recent decades was in 2008 when a magnitude 8.0 temblor struck Sichuan, killing nearly 70,000 people.

About 2200 personnel from the Gansu provincial fire department and 900 from the forest brigade, as well as 260 professional emergency rescue workers, have been dispatched to respond to this latest disaster, the Xinhua news agency reported, adding that hundreds from the military and police have also been deployed.

The province, which has allocated 20 million yuan ($A4.2 million) to the local government for emergency response work, also sent supplies that included 2600 cotton tents, 10,400 folding beds, 10,400 quilts, 10,400 cotton mattresses, and 1000 sets of stoves.

Students gather after dormitories were evacuated at Lanzhou University
Dormitories were evacuated at Lanzhou University in the Gansu provincial capital after the quake.

County officials from Jishishan, with a population of about 260,000 people, told local media that the local government, lacking resources, had to rely on the provincial government. Gansu is among the poorest provinces in China.

As the disaster area is in a high-altitude region where the weather is cold, rescue efforts are working to prevent secondary disasters caused by factors beyond the quake, Xinhua said.

The temperature in Linxia, Gansu, near where the quake occurred, was about minus 14C on Tuesday morning.

Although the 72 hours after a quake are the most likely time to rescue survivors, that will be shortened by the harsh weather, with trapped victims facing higher risk, it said.

Some water, electricity, transportation, communications and other infrastructure have been damaged.

Power to the quake-hit area was being gradually restored, after the state grid sent 18 emergency repair teams, CCTV said. At noon local time, about 88 per cent of the power supply had been restored in Jishishan.

Dozens of highways and rural roads were damaged amid multiple landslides, although no casualties were reported.

State media footage showed fire rescue personnel combing through rubble of collapsed buildings - loose bricks have piled onto a dirt alley in a Gansu village after sliding off a damaged house, while in stronger structures walls held up but roofs had collapsed.

At a university in Gansu's capital, Lanzhou, some 180 km away from the epicentre, students dressed in down jackets were seen lingering in groups outside their dormitory after the quake, a video posted by state-backed The Paper showed.

In a village in Qinghai, the quake triggered a mudslide that left many houses half-covered in brown silt. Rescuers have deployed drones, excavators and bulldozers to find and rescue survivors, local media reported.

Tremors were felt as far as 1000 km away in central Henan province, where local media outlets shared videos of furniture swaying in people's homes.

State media reported at least 32 aftershocks in the hour after the quake hit.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store