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Earthquake strikes Jiuzhaigou, killing 19

JIUZHAIGOU A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part of China's south-western province of Sichuan, killing 19 people, including six tourists, and injuring 247, the provincial government said yesterday.

The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200km north-west of the city of Guangyuan late on Tuesday. It was also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination of pristine natural beauty.

Sichuan is frequently struck by tremors. A huge quake there in May 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.

Yesterday, a separate quake of magnitude 6.6 hit a remote part of China's far north-western region of Xinjiang. The People's Daily said 32 people were injured in the mostly rural area.

The Sichuan government said rescuers were gradually evacuating tourists and residents who had been cut off by landslides.

At least six tourists were among those killed, the official China News Service said.

The Sichuan government said most of those injured were not seriously hurt.

Officials added that 45,000 tourists had been evacuated from the quake zone with just 1,000 more still waiting to leave.

The Tourism Development Committee in Sichuan province is collecting information about tourists in Jiuzhaigou, the China National Tourism Administration said in a notice.

As summer is a busy season and the number of tourists has increased greatly in recent days, the committee is cooperating with travel agencies and hotels to evacuate them.

All Singaporeans known to be in the quake-hit area are safe. (See report at right.)

A few dozen tourists were camped out at Jiuzhaigou airport, waiting for flights. The airport was open and beginning to evacaute people.

A traveller with a young daughter, who gave his family name as Li, said he was in his hotel when the earthquake hit.

"The walls and floor shook. Some things fell off the table," he said.

"The rescue services showed up quickly and gave us water and things to eat."

The Sichuan government dismissed as overblown earlier fears that part of a hotel had collapsed, saying damage was minor. - REUTERS

Registered Singapore travellers in quake-hit Jiuzhaigou safe: MFA

At least two groups of Singapore travellers were in Jiuzhaigou when a magnitude 7 earthquake hit the area on Tuesday. But they are safe and on their way out of the area in south-west China popular with tourists.

Some travellers scheduled to visit the area are reconsidering their plans after the earthquake struck Sichuan, killing 19 people, including eight tourists, and injuring 247 others as of 7pm yesterday.

The earthquake was close to the Jiuzhaigou National Park, a popular destination among Singapore tourists.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the Singapore Consulate-General in Chengdu has reached out to e-registered Singaporeans in the affected areas.

"Some Singaporeans visiting Jiuzhaigou were affected by the earthquake," it said.

"We have ascertained that all e-registered Singaporeans in Jiuzhaigou are safe."

ON STANDBY

A group of 20 on a trip organised by Chan Brothers Travel were on standby for the next flight out of Jiuzhaigou.

"We are ascertaining road conditions and sourcing available immediate flight options out of Jiuzhaigou for our customers," said Ms Jane Chang, its head of marketing communications.

She said the agency has another group scheduled to visit the destination on Saturday, but are awaiting postponement or cancellation directives from the airlines.

Another group of 16 who were on a Jiuzhaigou tour organised by Dynasty Travel reached Chengdu via coach at 7pm last night.

"Safety of our customers is a priority and we will amend our itinerary to ensure that the journey is safe," said Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel. Ms Seah added it has another 30 groups of about 900 travellers scheduled to visit Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou in the next two months.

The agency has received fewer than 10 calls from customers expressing concern about their trips. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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