At least 19 killed after 6.5-magnitude earthquake hits China

State media reported that eight tourists were among the dead

At least 19 killed after 6.5-magnitude earthquake hits China

A bus is destroyed by falling stones on the S301 highway in quake-hit Jiuzhaigou County, southwest China's Sichuan Province. Picture by: Fan Peishen/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

At least 19 people have died and almost 250 have been injured after an earthquake in a mountainous area of China.

Eight tourists were among the dead, Chinese state TV said. 40 of the injured are said to be in a serious condition.

The 6.5-magnitude quake struck a sparsely populated area late on Tuesday, 200 km northwest of the city of Guangyuan in Sichuan province.

Image: USGS

Most of the deaths and injuries were recorded in Zhangzha township, close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve - popular with tourists for its spectacular waterfalls and karst formations.

As the quake knocked out power and phone networks, rescuers dug through rubble with their hands.

"People were rushing out, some people were screaming," said Yang Jie, who owns a hostel in Zhangzha.

She had been at a restaurant, adding: "On our way home, there were rocks falling down from the hills on both sides of the road. We couldn't get through on the phone because there was no signal."

Shops were closed and houses had been "damaged beyond recognition", she said.

The government of Sichuan said 45,000 tourists had been evacuated, with 1,000 more waiting to leave.

Another earthquake struck near the border with Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning, China's official Xinhua news agency said, injuring 32 people, two of them seriously.

The agency said more than 1,000 houses had been damaged in a sparsely populated area of Xinjiang region.