One person was killed and 63 others injured after a 5.4 magnitude earthquake jolted Weiyuan county, Neijiang, Sichuan province, at 6:42 am on Sunday, the Neijiang government information office said.
Of the wounded, three were in critical condition as of 6 pm, the office said.
Sixty-three townships and 10,883 people were affected by the earthquake. One hundred and thirty-two houses collapsed, 161 houses were severely damaged and another 4,880 were slightly damaged, it said.
Soon after the temblor, Huang Ming, Party chief of the Ministry of Emergency Management, and vice-ministers Fu Jianhua and Zheng Guoguang held a video conference with leading officials of Sichuan’s Department of Emergency Management, the Sichuan Provincial Firefighters’ Brigade and Weiyuan County Firefighters’ Brigade, who were on the scene to direct quake relief efforts.
Ma Bo, Party chief of Neijiang, said the city had sent 4,781 people to assist in rescue operations, including militiamen, policemen, firefighters and medical workers.
The provincial Department of Emergency Management had sent 4,000 cotton quilts, and the Neijiang municipal bureau of emergency management had dispatched 200 tents for the quake victims, he said.
The epicenter of the earthquake was 12 kilometers from Weiyuan, 26 km from Neijiang and 141 km from Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu.
A female student at Neijiang Normal University was awaked by the quake. As she fled her dormitory on the fifth floor, she fell and injured an ankle.
“A roommate spent several minutes carrying me to the first floor, and I was greatly moved,” she said.
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A young woman in Weiyuan who said she usually took her cat outside at 7 am recalled it behaving abnormally just before the earthquake.
“About one hour before the quake, it jumped onto my bed and kept trampling on me as if it wanted me to wake up and take it out right then,” she said.
Trains leaving Chengdu for Chongqing, the provinces of Guangdong, Shaanxi, Yunnan, Zhejiang and Liaoning, and some parts of Sichuan were either delayed or canceled, China Railway Chengdu Group said.
Some residents of Neijiang received an early warning through smartphones, television broadcasts and special receiving terminals 2 seconds before seismic waves from the quake reached the city.
“Thirty-six seconds before the waves reached Chengdu, residents there received the early warning,” said Wu Liangyan, an information officer with Chengdu’s Institute of Care-Life, which was founded after the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 with the aim of reducing casualties from quakes.
A real-time system providing warnings seconds after a quake can save lives because the warnings are transmitted via radio waves traveling faster than seismic waves.
Radio waves travel at 300,000 km per second, while seismic waves travel at 3 to 6 km/s. Therefore, people in nearby areas may escape danger before seismic waves arrive, said Chen Huizhong, a senior research fellow with the China Earthquake Administration’s Institute of Geophysics.