SHANGHAI – Many tourist spots in Jiuzhaigou, an area prized for its natural beauty, suffered serious damages in landslides caused by a strong earthquake that had jolted the Sichuan province in southwestern China, according to official Xinhua news agency Thursday.
At least 20 people were killed and 431 were injured when the magnitude-7 quake, with its epicenter in Jiuzhaigou, a UNESCO nature reserve and popular tourist destination, had struck late Tuesday night.
Although satellite images by the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed multiple landslides but no major building collapse, Xinhua photographers, who were present at the scene said many tourist spots were badly hit in Jiuzhaigou, including some of its more than 140 lakes – known for their crystal clear water – which turned cloudy from the mud of the landslides.
Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhaigou Valley, is in the mountains on the eastern edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and is home to the Qiang ethnic minority.
It is visited by thousands of tourists, who were the main victims of the earthquake, one of the most powerful to hit China during the recent years.
A total of 50,000 tourists, and more than 9000 local residents have been evacuated from the region, while several thousands remain stranded after landslides blocked roads.
There are 126 foreigners among those rescued, and at least two foreigners – an Australian woman and a French woman – among the wounded.
China was hit by two powerful earthquakes within a day, as only a few hours after the Sichuan earthquake, Xinjiang, in northwest China and close to Central Asia, was hit by another earthquake that left at least 33 people injured – two seriously – and damaging a thousand houses, 142 of which had completely collapsed.
Rescue teams are working round the clock to rescue more victims in the second earthquake.
Western China experiences frequent earthquakes owing to the shifting of the Asia and India tectonic plates, although many of the earthquakes have their epicenter in areas with low population density, such as the Tibetan plateau or the deserts of Central Asia.