Rescue teams are scrambling to reach the site of Monday morning’s strong and shallow earthquake in northwestern China that has killed at least 89 people, according to state media.
Another 584 people were injured and 17 were believed missing after the quake tore through Gansu Province, state media reported.
The quake hit along the border of two counties — Min and Zhang — at around 7:45 a.m. local time, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Emergency services are converging on the area, including the Red Cross Society of China, which is sending 200 tents and other supplies to shelter and sustain those left without homes.
According to state broadcaster CCTV, Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged crews to prioritize the rescue of survivors and minimize casualties.
The original quake and powerful aftershocks caused roofs to collapse, cut telecommunications lines and damaged a major highway linking the provincial capital of Lanzhou to the south, according to the China Daily newspaper.
More than 300 armed police troops and 64 heavy machines have been dispatched to repair National Highway No. 212, the paper reported. Train services in the area have also been suspended.
Rescue efforts are expected to be hampered by heavy rain that’s soaked the region in recent weeks. More rain is forecast and experts have warned about potential landslides.
According to the Gansu Provincial Seismological Bureau, the quake registered a magnitude of 6.6, however the U.S. Geological Survey said it was a 5.9-magnitude tremor, which struck at the relatively shallow depth of about half a mile (1 kilometer).
The epicenter was eight miles (13 kilometers) east of Chabu and 110 miles (177 kilometers) south-southeast of Lanzhou, the USGS said.
Tremors were still being felt from the quake, Xinhua said, quoting sources within the Min County government. Locals said buildings and trees shook for about a minute.
Residents within the earthquake zone took to Weibo — China’s version of Twitter — soon after to describe how the earth shook.
“This morning at 7:40 I was brushing my teeth, all of a sudden everything shook for a few moments, I thought I didn’t get enough sleep last night and was feeling dizzy,” @wyyy wrote. “Turns out it was an earthquake, sigh, seems that with the huge rain downpour outside, we really don’t know how much longer this planet is going to let us live here.”
Another, @dengdjianjyany, said: “Gansu earthquake. So many natural disasters in so short a time, another flood, another landslide, another earthquake, another something. And it’s not finished, my God ~ is there any safe place left? Wish everybody a life of peace”
@Heidiping: “Another earthquake, life really is fragile, survivors, be at peace!”