BEIJING, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) — China has begun all-out efforts in relief and rescue work after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck a remote area in southwest China’s Sichuan Province Tuesday night, killing 19 and leaving another 247 injured.
The earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou County at 9:19 p.m. at a depth of 20 kilometers. Jiuzhaigou is a popular tourist destination in the mountains on the eastern edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known for its mountainous landscape and stunning scenery.
When the quake hit, 35,000 tourists were in Zhangzha township. Thousands have already been evacuated, and authorities aim to relocate all tourists by the end of Wednesday.
Chinese leaders have called for all-out efforts to organize relief work and rescue the injured.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, has sent a national work team to the disaster-hit area to guide relief work.
Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), confirmed immediate activation of level-III emergency response procedures, asking civil aviation authorities to cooperate with local government in disaster relief.
The CAAC has instructed airports to keep track of available runways and gate positions while asking airlines to help with emergency evacuation of tourists in the disaster-hit area.
The Ministry of Transport has initiated level-II emergency response procedures and formed a leading group to guide local transportation authorities to aid the rescue.
Traffic on highways to the disaster-hit area is being monitored, with special lanes set aside for rescue vehicles travelling into the area.
The China Meteorological Administration has initiated enhanced weather forecasting in the area in order to prevent secondary disasters that could inhibit rescue work.
According to the National Meteorological Center, the quake zone in Jiuzhaigou County will experience cloudy weather from Wednesday night to Thursday, while light to moderate rain is expected on Friday.
The China National Commission for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Civil Affairs also issued a grade-III emergency response.
The Red Cross Society of China has sent 1,000 first aid kits, 2,000 quilts and 200 tents to the area.
Besides government agencies, more than 20 state-owned enterprises supervised by the central government have contributed to the rescue efforts.
The country’s biggest telecommunications operators have set up emergency hotlines to help people locate their relatives while resources including tents, medical equipment and clean water are being delivered to the area.
China’s oil giants have stepped up efforts to ensure fuel supplies along the roads and insurance companies have initiated emergency response procedures for settlement of claims.
Sichuan is frequently struck by quakes. At least three major tectonic earthquakes have struck mountainous areas of the province in the past decade.
In 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Wenchuan claimed more than 80,000 lives. Five years later, a 7.0-magnitude quake hit Lushan, killing 196.