Beijing: Fifty-four people were killed and 21,000 houses suffered serious damage Monday in an earthquake that rocked China's Gansu province, authorities said.
The 6.6-magnitude quake, which struck at 7.45 a.m. at the juncture of Minxian county and Zhangxian county in the city of Dingxi, has also left over 300 injured, Xinhua reported citing the publicity department of the Dingxi city government.
As of Monday noon, 371 aftershocks had been recorded in the quake-hit region, with the strongest measuring 5.6 magnitude, Chang Zhengguo, spokesman for the provincial government, said at a press conference in the provincial capital city of Lanzhou.
Initial reports said the quake had caused the collapse of over 1,200 homes and severe damage to 21,000 homes.
A total of 31 people have been confirmed dead in Meichuan, according to rescuers.
Five residential buildings have collapsed and cracks could be seen on many walls in Chagu village, Meichuan township.
Communication in many villages in Meichuan township and in 13 towns of Zhangxian county has been cut off. Power has been cut off in five towns in the eastern part of Minxian county.
The epicentre of the quake was at a depth of 20 km, the China Earthquake Networks Center said.
The earthquake happened at a fault zone in the province, which has recorded 25 earthquakes with a magnitude of over 5 throughout history, the China Earthquake Administration said.
The strongest quake recorded around the fault zone was measured with a magnitude of 8.0 July 21, 1654. That one occurred about 120 km from the site of the latest quake, it added.
Sources with the Minxian County government said most of the townships in the county have been affected by the quake.
Locals said the quake lasted for about one minute.
Armed police, firefighters and more than 300 local militiamen have been dispatched to the quake-hit region to help with rescue efforts.
The provincial civil affairs department has sent 500 tents and 2,000 quilts.
The Lanzhou Railway Bureau has started an emergency response to guarantee the safety of railway bridges and communication equipment in the province.
Light to heavy rain has been forecast in Dingxi city, according to the provincial meteorological station.
The tremors were also felt in Tianshui city and Lanzhou as well as the cities of Xi'an, Baoji and Xianyang in neighbouring Shaanxi province.