Chinese officials have reported a sharp rise in the death toll less than a day after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck the northwest Gansu province. Towns nearly 200 kilometers (124 miles) away felt the tremors.
Authorities in Gansu province reported at least 89 deaths overnight Tuesday following a powerful earthquake.
Thousands of rescue workers from the armed forces and local emergency services continued searching for survivors. Numerous aftershocks and rain, which had caused landslides in some areas, had hampered their efforts in the hours immediately following the quake.
The China Earthquake Networks Center reported it as a magnitude 6.6 with an epicenter about 1,200 kilometers west of Beijing. The US Geological Survey recorded a lower magnitude of 5.9 and a depth of only 10 kilometers.
Minxian and Zhangxian counties experienced the worst aftermath, the mayor of Dingxi, Mayor Tang Xiaoming, told state broadcaster CCTV. Over 20,000 homes were damaged on Monday, at least 2,000 of which were completely destroyed.
Hospitals have set up aid stations to accommodate the thousands of displaced victims of the natural disaster. It was not immediately clear how many people have taken refuge at the makeshift emergency centers.
Main tremor felt nearly 200 km away
Dingxi residents reportedly felt the main tremor even though the town lies more than 180 kilometers from the epicenter.
"I saw the bulb hanging from the ceiling start swinging wildly around. I woke my two friends and we ran into the bathroom to hide," university student Li Jingui, 21, told the Associated Press news agency. "After the strongest tremors were over, we were worried that there would be aftershocks so we packed our stuff and ran out into a large clearing.""I was on the second floor of our building, but it felt very powerful," the manager of the six-story Haitian hotel in Dinxi told the news agency AFP.
Lanzhou, the provincial capital roughly 180 kilometers from the epicenter, also reported strong tremors.
China's Sichuan province experienced a 6.6-magnitude earthquake earlier this year that claimed the lives of at least 200 people.
kms/tj (AP, AFP, dpa)