Rescuers have rushed supplies to China's Sichuan province after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake killed at least 179 people and injured 6,700. More than 90 people have been rescued from the wreckage.
According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, 6,000 soldiers have gone to the scene after the earthquake triggered landslides that cut off roads in Lushan county, south on the same fault line where a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region five years ago. Firefighters helped by search dogs have pulled 91 people alive from the rubble, Xinhua reported, citing the Ministry of Public Security.
"The current priority is to save lives," said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who arrived Saturday afternoon by helicopter in Ya'an to direct rescue efforts, Xinhua reported.
Tens of thousands of people moved into tents or cars as aftershocks - more than 1,100 so far - continued to jolt the region. Some rescue teams have had to contend with roads blocked by debris, and one military vehicle carrying 17 troops plummeted over a cliff on Saturday, killing one soldier and injuring seven others.
The earthquake struck at 8:02 a.m. local time (0002 UTC) on Saturday in Lushan county, near Ya’an city. China's earthquake authority measured the quake at a magnitude of 7.0, while the US Geological Survey recorded it at 6.6.
Frequently hit by earthquakes itself - including one Sunday morning tremor measured at 6.1 by the US Geological Survey - Japan said it would put aside a territorial dispute involving two islands in the East China Sea to give assistance if needed.
According to the ministry, China responded that it did not need any overseas assistance at the moment but that it would contact Japan if that changes.
Saturday's quake happened along the same fault line where a devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake in 2008 left more than 70,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead in one of China's worst natural disasters in recent decades.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)