State media report 21 deaths in southwest China earthquake

China’s state media say at least 21 people have been killed in a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The quake triggered landslides and shook buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu, whose 21 million residents are already under a COVID-19 lockdown.

The temblor struck a mountainous area in Luding county shortly after noon on Monday, the China Earthquake Networks Center said.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

A strong earthquake killed at least seven people, triggered landslides and shook residents in a major city under lockdown in southwestern China on Monday, state media reported.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck a mountainous area in Luding county in Sichuan province shortly after noon, the China Earthquake Networks Center said.

Sichuan, which sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau where tectonic plates meet, is regularly hit by earthquakes. Two quakes in June killed at least four people.

Authorities reported seven deaths, landslides and damage to homes and power interruptions, state broadcaster CCTV said. One landslide blocked a rural highway, leaving it strewn with rocks, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

The quake was felt 200 kilometers (125 miles) away in the provincial capital, Chengdu, where a COVID-19 outbreak has restricted most of its 21 million residents to their compounds under China’s strict “zero-COVID” policy.

Resident Jiang Danli said she hid under a desk for five minutes in her 31st floor apartment, while many of her neighbors rushed downstairs.

“There was a strong earthquake in June, but it wasn’t very scary. This time I was really scared, because I live on a high floor and the shaking made me dizzy,” she told The Associated Press.

The earthquake and lockdown follow a heat wave and drought that led to water shortages and power cuts due to Sichuan’s reliance on hydropower.

The past two months in Chengdu “have been weird,” Jiang said.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a magnitude of 6.6 for Monday’s quake at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). Preliminary measurements by different agencies often differ slightly.

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 a years-long effort to rebuild with more resistant materials.

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