A strong earthquake struck the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan today, killing over 70 people and injuring hundreds of others in the region where a catastrophic quake five years ago had caused widespread devastation.
Emergency workers rushed to reach the affected zones in the hilly region, with Chinese premier Li Keqiang heading to the area from Beijing, according to the state media.
According to the state-run news agency, Xinhua, which cited the China Earthquake Administration, the death toll currently stands at 71.
Also preliminary reports suggest over 600 people had been injured, according to Xu Mengjia, the Communist Party chief of Ya'an, the city that administers the area where the quake struck, who spoke to state broadcaster CCTV.
He said, due to landslides and disruption to communications in the area, determining the total number of casualties might take some time.
According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck just after 8 am local time about 115 kilometers (70 miles) away from the provincial capital, Chengdu, at a depth of around 12 kilometers.
Reports about the strength of the temblor were not consistent with the USGS putting the magnitude at 6.6 and the China Earthquake Networks Center gauging it at 7.0.
Earlier, CCTV News had reported put the toll at 72 dead but revised it down to 47, with 600 injured, citing the Sichuan emergency authorities.
However, late today, Xinhua, quoting the China Earthquake Administration, reported that the death toll had increased to 71.
Panicked residents in cities hundreds of kilometres away rushed out into streets, many of them still in their slippers and pyjamas.
The Sichuan earthquake bureau said, the earthquake in Ya'an, Lushan, had injured or killed hundreds of people.
Local authorities, that took heavy flak after Sichuan's 2008 quake left 87,000 people missing or dead, were extra quick to mobilise and president Xi Jinping ordered all-out efforts to minimise casualties, Xinhua said.
According to the People's Daily website, premier Li Kequang was flying to Ya'an.
Earlier on Tuesday, a massive earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck Iran for the second time within a week, near its border with Pakistan, leaving over 40 people dead and causing heavy destruction to buildings and houses. The impact of the quake was felt in the Gulf states and Ahmedfabad in Gujarat (See: Quake in Iran leaves over 40 dead, shakes Delhi and Gulf cities).