BEIJING – A strong earthquake struck a lightly populated, mountainous area of western China on Saturday, killing at least one person and causing minor damage to buildings, officials and state media said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-5.9 quake had a depth of 9 miles. It struck in the late afternoon about 20 miles from the town of Kangding in Sichuan province. China's seismological agency gave the magnitude as 6.3.
A woman in her 70s died after being struck by a falling window pane, the official Xinhua News Agency and state broadcaster CCTV said.
A duty officer at the Kangding county government, who gave his surname as Xia, said the quake lasted only a few seconds, and that there had been some reports of cracks in buildings and toppled walls. The area is frequently struck by earthquakes, and Xia said newly constructed buildings in the town of Kangding must be able to withstand those of up to 8 in magnitude, although requirements are less strict in the surrounding rural area.
Wang Dan, a spokeswoman for the Ganzi prefecture government under Kangding county, said rescue teams had already been dispatched to the epicenter. He said the local electricity supply hadn't been knocked out, there were no disruptions to transport or communications, and there was no major damage to buildings in the town of Kangding.
CCTV video showed Kangding residents strolling the town's streets, looking up at the steep surrounding hillsides and talking on their cellphones.
Kangding and the surrounding county have a population of 129,320 people, about 70 percent of them Tibetan.
Western China is regularly hit by earthquakes. Sichuan was struck by a magnitude-7.9 quake in May 2008 that left nearly 90,000 people dead, many of them in collapsed schools and other poorly constructed buildings.
Construction standards have been significantly tightened since then and the country's disaster response capacity has improved with better equipment and trained rescue teams.
Just to the south of Sichuan, in Yunnan province, 589 people were killed by a quake this past August. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake there killed more than 1,400 in 1974.