Picture used for illustrative purposes only.
Roads into the area have been blocked by rockslides, although there have been no reported casualties or other damage. The temblor struck at 3:49am at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) in Sichuan province’s mountainous Luding county, according to the US Geological Survey.
Although 5.5. magnitude quakes are not particularly strong, shallow temblors are more likely to cause damage.
The official Xinhua News Agency said about 100 rescuers were on their way to the site, but it gave no details on their work expertise or duties. China typically mobilises firefighters, paramilitary troops and local volunteers as first responders to earthquakes and wildfires in remote mountainous regions with limited roads.
A 6.8 magnitude quake struck the same region in September, killing more than 90 people, injuring over 400 and destroying or damaging thousands of buildings.
The China Earthquake Networks Center gave the magnitude as 5.6 and depth at 11 kilometers (6.8 miles). Aftershocks followed in the area, including one registering magnitude 4.9.
Roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the provincial capital Chengdu, Luding is located in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, where tectonic plates grind up against each other.
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 years of rebuilding with more quake-resistant materials.
The epicentre of the quake, which struck at about 1:45am (1745 GMT) at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (six miles), was located about 140 kilometres north-northwest of the city of Xining, US seismologists said.
Earthquakes are common in the southwestern province of Sichuan, especially in its mountains in the west, a tectonically active area along the eastern boundary of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.
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Of those hurt in the accident, 138 sustained minor injuries and a further 24 were still in hospital, the health ministry said. The blast blew out the windows of several houses in the surrounding area and damaged their interiors.