Video: Large Earthquake, 6.5 in Magnitude, Hits Western China

Updated | A large earthquake struck a remote part of western China Tuesday night, in a mountainous region of Sichuan province, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The temblor measured a 6.5 in magnitude. The agency said there is a low likelihood of casualties, and none were initially reported. However, Reuters reports five have been killed, and AFP quotes a government source as saying that as many as 100 are feared dead. The quake is likely to cause some damage, though the “impact should be relatively localized” and not spread over a large area, according to the USGS.

Photos of the damage are appearing on state-run media depicting mostly minor damage and no collapsed homes. The USGS estimates that 87,000 people in the region may have felt "moderate" to "very strong" shaking. The movement was felt in the provincial capital, Chengdu, and in Xian, home of the Terracotta Army, according to news reports.

The Sichuan provincial government's news website cited Zhao Wei, the party secretary of the Communist Youth League’s Jiuzhaigou division, as saying some telephone networks were down, making assessment of damage difficult.  

The quake took place at a depth of about 6 miles (9 kilometers), and the epicenter was in the Ngawa prefecture, home to a population of ethnic Tibetans, many of whom are nomadic herders, Reuters notes. It’s also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination.

This area is found northeast of the boundary where the Indian plate collides with the Eurasian plate, a long-unfolding subterranean drama that led to the uplift of the Himalayas and makes the region tectonically volatile. (A 7.8 magnitude quake flattened Kathmandu, Nepal, in April 2015.)

A 7.8 magnitude quake in Sichuan killed more than 700,000 people in 2008 and flatted most of the houses in the affected area. Shortly before this quake, another temblor, of a 5.3 magnitude, hit southwestern Turkey, near the Aegean coastal town of Bodrum.

The Sichuan quake, which occurred just before 9:20 p.m. local time (9:20 a.m. EDT), was followed by a small magnitude 3.3 aftershock. Officials are continuing to monitor the situation.