BEIJING – Rescuers with shovels and sniffer dogs combed through collapsed hillsides today as the death toll rose to 89 from a strong earthquake in a farming region of northwest China.
Another five people were listed as missing and 628 injured in Monday morning’s quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province.
About 123,000 people were affected by the quake, with 31,600 moved to temporary shelters, the provincial earthquake administration said on its website. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged, the administration said.
The quake toppled brick walls and telephone lines, shattered mud-and-tile-roofed houses and sent cascades of dirt and rock down hillsides that blocked roads and slowed rescue efforts by crews trying to reach remote areas.
Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate large numbers of injured, while hundreds of paramilitary People’s Armed Police fanned out to search for victims in the region of terraced farmland where the quake struck about 760 miles west of Beijing.
Damage was worst in Min county in Dingxi’s rural southern portion, where scores of homes were damaged and telephone and electricity services knocked out, Dingxi Mayor Tang Xiaoming told state broadcaster CCTV. All but three of the deaths, all the missing and most of the injured were in Min, a likely result of shoddy construction.
Residents said the shaking lasted about one minute, but wasn’t strong enough to cause major damage in urban areas, where buildings are more solidly built.
The government’s earthquake monitoring center said the quake was magnitude-6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it was 5.9. Measurements can often varyy if different monitoring equipment is used.