UPDATED: Earthquake in China’s Sichuan kills 21; Fatal earthquake in Afghanistan

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BEIJING, Sept 5 (Reuters) – A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck China’s Sichuan on Monday, the strongest to hit the region since 2017, killing at least 21 persons and shaking the provincial capital of Chengdu and other provinces.

Some roads and homes near the epicentre were damaged by landslides, while communications were down in at least one area, according to state television.

No damage at dam and hydropower stations within 50 km (31 miles) of the epicentre has been reported.

The epicentre was at Luding, the China Earthquake Networks Centre said, a town in the mountains about 226 km southwest of Chengdu.

Earthquakes are common in Sichuan, a southwestern province, especially in its mountains in the west, a tectonically active area along the eastern boundary of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.

Laura Luo, who lives in Chengdu, a city of about 21 million people, was on her way back to her apartment block when she saw people in her neighbourhood rushing out of their high-rise homes in panic after getting earthquake warnings on their phones.

“There were many people who were so terrified they started crying,” the international PR consultant told Reuters.

When the shaking began, “all the dogs started barking. It was really quite scary.”

In Luding, the quake was so strong it was hard for some people to remain standing, while cracks appeared on some houses, according to state media China News Service.

Video clips posted on social media showed lights swinging while people rushed out of buildings into the streets.

A total of 39,000 people live within 20 km of the epicentre and 1.55 million within 100 km, according to state television.

The quake was Sichuan’s biggest since August 2017, when one of magnitude 7.0 hit Aba prefecture.

The most powerful Sichuan earthquake on record was in May 2008, when a magnitude 8.0 quake centred in Wenchuan killed almost 70,000 people and caused extensive damage.

Monday’s quake was also felt in the provinces of Yunnan, Shaanxi and Guizhou hundreds of kilometres away, according to state media.

Samantha Yang, 23, a Chengdu resident and recent university graduate, said she had just finished lunch and was in bed about to take a nap when she felt the quake.

“The building kept shaking, each time more severely than before,” Yang said. “Truly, this was the scariest one since the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.”

Meanwhile, at least eight people were killed overnight in an earthquake in north-eastern Afghanistan and the toll could rise, according to an official quoted by the state new agency.

“Sunday night’s earthquake has caused financial and human losses in Kunar province,” Mawlavi Najibullah Hanif, Director of Information and Culture of Kunar and Governor’s Spokesman, told Bakhtar News Agency, adding the number of casualties could increase.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recorded an earthquake of magnitude 5.3 near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad in the early hours of Monday morning.

Afghanistan is still reeling from a strong earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people and wiped out villages in eastern Afghanistan in June.

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