Xi orders all-out rescue efforts after quake killed 21 in Sichuan

Fallen rocks are seen on a road near Lengqi Town in Luding County of southwest China's Sichuan province after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Sept 5, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered all-out rescue efforts to minimize casualties after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake  struck southwest China's Sichuan province Monday, killing at least 21 people.

In his instruction, the Chinese leader stressed that saving lives should be taken as the primary task.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the instruction after the quake hit Luding County in Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture at 12:52 pm.

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Seven people were killed in Luding county, while the 14 others in Shimian County, Ya'an City, local officials said.

A military doctor provides medical service for quake-affected residents in Lengqi Township of Luding County, southwest China's Sichuan province, Sept 5, 2022. (LI HUASHI / XINHUA)

The quake, which struck at 12:52 pm, triggered a national emergency response of Level  IV, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management. China has a four-tier emergency response system, with Level-I representing the most severe response.

A level-IV national emergency response for earthquake has been activated, said the Ministry of Emergency Management

The epicenter of the earthquake was monitored at 29.59 degrees north latitude and 102.08 degrees east longitude, at a depth of 16 km, the China Earthquake Networks Center said.

There are several villages within the 5-km range of the epicenter.  The tremor was felt in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, which is 226 km away from the epicenter.

China has a four-tier emergency response system, with Level-I representing the most severe response.

The ministry has dispatched a team headed by Min Yiren, head of China Earthquake Administration, to guide the disaster relief work in Luding, said a press release from the ministry.

It said 530 rescuers have left for the county as a group of 30 firefighters head to the epicenter of the earthquake to check the situation.

Technicians from China Mobile Sichuan Branch repair cables damaged in the earthquake connecting Shimian to Luding County in southwest China's Sichuan province, Sept 5, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Wang Xiangxi, minister of emergency management, arrived at the ministry's command center soon after the quake to coordinate disaster relief work, it said.

The damage to roads, communications and houses is being checked at present.

Vehicles drive past fallen debris on a road in Luding county after Monday’s earthquake. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture has dispatched rescue forces of 635 people including armed police, firefighters, medical workers, communication professionals, power technicians, and transportation professionals to carry out rescue work.

READ MORE: Sichuan launches emergency response as quake kills at least 3

Netizens from as far away as Changsha and Xian said they had felt the quake in Sichuan.

Minutes later, a second quake with a magnitude of 4.2 struck the city of Ya'an near Luding, according to the center.

In 2013, Ya'an was hit by a strong earthquake, killing more than 100 people and injuring thousands.

*With inputs from agencies