An earthquake of magnitude 6.5 hit the Chinese province of Sichuan in the southwest of the country on Tuesday evening, killing at least five people, but authorities said they feared up to 100 dead and thousands injured.
The earthquake occurred at 21:20 local time in a remote area of Sichuan, a mountainous province in southwestern China. At least 130,000 houses could be damaged, officials said. The earthquake was felt until Chengdu, the capital of the province, yet located nearly 300 km from the epicenter.
Five people were killed and more than sixty were injured, 30 of whom were in critical condition, Xinhua official news agency reported. The National Commission for Disaster Reduction has estimated that 100 people may have been killed in the shock, a report based on the 2010 census figures in this mountainous and sparsely populated region. The earthquake could have caused thousands of injuries, the Commission said in a statement.
The affected area is inhabited by breeders, but it also encompasses the natural park of Jiuzhaigou, prized by tourists and classified as a World Heritage by Unesco. 38,000 tourists reportedly visited the site on Tuesday and some may be among the victims.
According to the testimony of a restaurateur joined by the agency France Presse, the earthquake was very violent. The inhabitants fled their homes to join the public gardens or to leave by car, away from the large buildings. Photos on social networks showed masses crowded in streets strewn with debris.
China is regularly affected by earthquakes and Sichuan especially. In May 2008, an earthquake killed more than 80,000 people and disappeared.