Earthquake in Sichuan leaves 3 dead, sees more than 70,000 evacuated

Photo taken with a mobile phone on Sept 16, 2021 shows debris from damaged buildings in Luxian county of Luzhou city in Southwest China’s Sichuan province. Sichuan province has initiated a level-II emergency response after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake jolted Luxian county at 4:33 am on Thursday (2033 GMT Wednesday). According to China Earthquake Networks Center, the epicenter was monitored at 29.2 degrees north latitude and 105.34 degrees east longitude. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake that rocked Luxian county, Sichuan province, at 4:33 am on Thursday left three people dead and 88 injured, the county government’s information office said.

A total of 73,755 people have been evacuated, 1,221 houses have collapsed and 3,285 others have been badly damaged, it said.

The China Earthquake Networks Center said the epicenter of the quake was at 29.2 degrees north latitude and 105.3 degrees east longitude. The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers.

Zhang Zhiwei, a senior engineer at the Sichuan Seismological Station, said the earthquake was not related to the Wenchuan earthquake in Wenchuan county, Sichuan, which occurred in the Longmenshan fault zone on May 12, 2008, killing over 69,000 people, with another 17,900 listed as missing.

The Luxian earthquake took place in the Huayingshan fault zone in the Sichuan Basin. The fault zones are far apart and belong to different structures, Zhang said.

Rescuers transfer a senior woman to a safe location in Fuji town of Luxian county, Southwest China’s Sichuan province, on Sept 16, 2021. (XIANG QIAN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

According to a comprehensive analysis of regional structural characteristics, historical seismicity levels and seismic sequence characteristics, there is little possibility of a larger earthquake in Luxian in the near future, but aftershocks will continue for a period of time, the Sichuan Earthquake Bureau said.

Thirty-one seconds before seismic waves reached Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital, the China Earthquake Early Warning Network developed by the Institute of Care-Life in Chengdu and the China Earthquake Administration had warned Chengdu residents that the waves would jolt the city.

“Six seconds before seismic waves reached Luzhou (a city that has Luxian under its administration), the network had provided an early warning,” said Wang Tun, head of the Institute of Care-Life.

A real-time earthquake early warning system has been installed on TV sets and mobile phones in many parts of the country, and residents can use it to save themselves from earthquakes, he said.

The system provides warnings seconds after a quake and can save lives because the warnings are transmitted via radio waves traveling much faster than seismic waves. Radio waves travel at 300,000 km per second, while seismic waves travel at 3 to 6 km per second.

Rescuers work at a damaged house in Fuji town of Luxian county, Southwest China’s Sichuan province, on Sept 16, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Chen Huizhong, a senior research fellow with the China Earthquake Administration’s Institute of Geophysics, said that meant people in nearby areas could escape before seismic waves arrived.

After the Wenchuan quake, Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in theoretical physics at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, set up the Institute of Care-Life to research and develop the early warning system.

Since then, it has sent correct early warnings after 64 destructive quakes, including the magnitude 7 earthquake in Lushan, Sichuan, in 2013, the magnitude 6.5 earthquake in Ludian, Yunnan province, in 2014, and the magnitude 7 earthquake in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, in 2017.

The institute’s system, installed in 31 provincial-level regions. covers 2.2 million square kilometers and is the world’s largest earthquake early warning network, he said.