A mighty earthquake shook China's southwestern Sichuan Province on Saturday morning at 8:02 a.m. local time — or 8:02 p.m. (EDT). Striking Longmenshan, the same active fault line as the 2008 quake that killed 87,000 people near the provincial capital of Chengdu, the earthquake registered a 7.0-magniture with the China Earthquake Administration — and the U.S. Geological Survey reported it to be 6.6.
The epicenter of the devastating quake was 70 miles west of the Chengdu, the quake was only 12 km below the surface. Shallower epicenters generally result in more widespread damage. A BBC reporter described the quake as the "longest 15 seconds" of his life, and the video above captured by AP shows people rushing out of buildings immediately after.
BBC also reports that a town square in front of Lushan County Hospital, the main hospital in the Ya'an region, has become an effective triage center, and bloodied people are being treated outside or in tents. One man described the devastation to state broadcaster CCTV: "We still live in our old house, the new one is not ready yet. Our house just collapsed. Everything collapsed." CCTV broadcasted images from Lushan County and other areas near the epicenter that show entire neighborhoods have been razed by the quake.
Cut off power and water supplies, landslides, damaged roads making them impassable, and aftershocks continuing to rattle the area are all worsening efforts by rescuers to save lives. At least 6,000 troops have been dispatched to the Sichuan province and Premier Le Keqiang will also be traveling to the area to survey the damage. Aircrafts have begun surveying the damaged areas and have started delivering supplies to areas that are unreachable by road.
An outpouring of volunteers is assisting 180 doctors from national emergency response teams, 120 rescue vehicles, armed police officers, two helicopters, and six search-and-rescue dogs have also been sent to the Ya'an. However, criticism has emerged from the scene that the government is misdirecting resources and moving too slowly, despite Premier Le's call for the importance of the first 24 hours to save lives. The city is on the edge of the Tibetan plateau and has a population of 1.5 million people. The Tibetan plateau and the Sichuan basin have seen at least 12 earthquakes above a 5.0 magnitude since 1900.