The aftermath of a magnitude-6.2 China earthquake has left 131 people dead and nearly 1,000 injured, with rescuers battling freezing temperatures to search for survivors amidst the rubble. The China earthquake struck just before midnight on Monday in Jishishan County, near the border of Gansu and Qinghai provinces, causing widespread destruction to over 150,000 homes, according to state media.
As rescue teams, including 1,500 firefighters, 1,500 police officers, 1,000 PLA soldiers, and around 400 medics, worked tirelessly to locate survivors, the death toll climbed to 131 in Gansu, with 782 reported injuries. In Qinghai, 18 people lost their lives, and 198 were injured.
The frigid temperatures, reaching as low as -16 °C in the high-altitude region of China’s northwest, have posed significant challenges to the ongoing rescue efforts. Responders have been battling adverse weather conditions to extract individuals from the debris and provide medical assistance.
In Minhe County, where a mudslide swept through, burying numerous buildings in brown silt, 20 people are still missing. State media footage showcased bulldozers removing thick mud as search and rescue operations continued.
Despite the continued cold wave, many residents are reluctant to return home due to fears of aftershocks. Instead, they are congregating around fires in open spaces, highlighting the psychological impact of the disaster.
One resident, Ma Dongdong, shared his anxiety, stating, “I just feel anxious; what other feelings could there be?” Ma and his family spent the first night in a field with neighbours, making a fire to stay warm, and later sought refuge in a tent settlement housing approximately 700 people. As they awaited blankets and warm clothing, concerns about the possibility of aftershocks lingered.
The Gansu Provincial Seismological Bureau cautioned that strong aftershocks, potentially reaching magnitude 5, could occur in the coming days based on the characteristics of the initial quake and historical seismic activity.
Experts attribute the relatively high number of casualties to factors such as the earthquake’s shallow depth, causing more intense shaking, the mainly vertical movement of the quake, lower-quality buildings in the impoverished region, and the timing of the event during the night when most people were at home.
The affected area, home to predominantly Muslim ethnic groups and near Tibetan communities, has prompted an outpouring of support on social media platforms. Weibo, China’s social media platform, saw earthquake-related discussions and rescue efforts ranking among the top trending topics, reflecting the solidarity and concern of millions of users. Volunteers have been actively participating in rescue operations, providing food, and extending other assistance to those affected by the earthquake.