At least 21 people were killed in China on Monday when a powerful earthquake of 6.8-magnitude jolted Luding County in the country’s southwest Sichuan province, whose population is already reeling under a rising number of COVID-19 cases and an unprecedented drought.
The epicentre of the quake, which occurred at 12:25 pm local time, was monitored at 29.59 degrees north latitude and 102.08 degrees east longitude at a depth of 16 km, China Earthquake Networks Centre was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The epicentre is 39 km away from the county seat of Luding and there are several villages within the 5-km range around the epicentre.
Twenty-one people were found to have been killed in the quake so far, the state-run China Daily reported. The tremor was felt in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, which is 226 km away from the epicentre. Photos and videos posted on Chinese social media showed buildings shaking in Chengdu. Details of the damage are awaited.
Sichuan province is located adjacent to Tibet. The Tibetan plateau is known to be prone to heavy earthquakes as it sits right over the place where the tectonic Eurasian and Indian plates meet, often colliding with huge force. More than 69,000 people were killed when an 8.2 quake struck the province in 2008 and a magnitude 7 quake claimed 200 lives in 2013.
Monday’s quake struck as the province is grappling with the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Chengdu was under a snap lockdown due to a growing number of cases. Residents were told to stay home, with one person per household allowed out each day to buy necessities. Daily nucleic acid tests were also mandated until Wednesday, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
More than 1,000 cases have been reported since mid-August in Chengdu alone, a southwestern transport hub of 21 million people. Sichuan reported 105 new symptomatic cases on Monday, and another 80 asymptomatic infections.
The province is also reeling under unprecedented drought and heatwaves persisted over vast swathes of China, with farmlands left dry after a month of no rainfall and little to no irrigation equipment available to farmers.