Shallow 5.5 quake sets off rockslides in southwest China


Rescuers were headed to the site of a magnitude 5.5 earthquake Thursday in a region of southwestern China at the base of the Tibetan plateau that is prone to deadly quakes.

Roads into the area have been blocked by rockslides, although there have been no reported casualties or other damage. The temblor struck at 3:49 a.m. at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in Sichuan province’s mountainous Luding county, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Although 5.5. magnitude quakes are not particularly strong, shallow temblors are more likely to cause damage.

The official Xinhua News Agency said about 100 rescuers were on their way to the site, but it gave no details on their work expertise or duties. China typically mobilizes firefighters, paramilitary troops and local volunteers as first responders to earthquakes and wildfires in remote mountainous regions with limited roads.

A 6.8 magnitude quake struck the same region in September, killing more than 90 people, injuring over 400 and destroying or damaging thousands of buildings.

The China Earthquake Networks Center gave the magnitude as 5.6 and depth at 11 kilometers (6.8 miles). Aftershocks followed in the area, including one registering magnitude 4.9.

Roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the provincial capital Chengdu, Luding is located in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, where tectonic plates grind up against each other.

China’s deadliest earthquake in recent years was a 7.9 magnitude quake in 2008 that killed nearly 90,000 people in Sichuan. The temblor devastated towns, schools and rural communities outside Chengdu, leading to years of rebuilding with more quake-resistant materials.

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