BEIJING (AP) — Authorities in Chengdu, southwest China, have maintained strict COVID-19 lockdown measures on the city’s population of 21 million despite a major earthquake that left killed at least 65 people in outlying areas.
Footage circulating online on Tuesday showed workers wearing top-to-bottom protective gear preventing residents of apartment buildings from exiting through locked lobby doors after Monday’s magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered in the province surrounding Sichuan.
Buildings in Chengdu and other parts of western China were rocked by the quake. No damage was reported in the city. The quake hit a mountainous region in Luding County, which sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Chengdu, where tectonic plates rub against each other.
Although it has recorded only a handful of cases, Chengdu’s lockdown is the toughest since China’s largest city, Shanghai, was placed in lockdown over the summer, prompting rare protests in person and online.
China’s authoritarian communist political system demands strict adherence to measures dictated by the central leadership overwhelmingly dominated by party leader Xi Jinping.
Local leaders, including the recently appointed Sichuan provincial party secretary, are often parachuted in from Beijing with little knowledge of local conditions and a firm mandate to carry out Xi’s dictates.
Shanghai’s ruthless and often chaotic lockdown enforcement has led to widespread complaints about shortages of food, medicine and access to healthcare. In a sign of little change, at least one district in Chengdu has even banned ordering takeout and coffee, according to a notice posted on the internet.
China has stuck to its hardline ‘zero-COVID’ policy of mandatory testing, lockdowns, quarantines and masking despite advice from the World Health Organization and steps taken by most other countries to reopen since then. that the virus was first detected in central China. city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
China reported 1,499 new cases of local infection on Tuesday, most of them asymptomatic. Sichuan accounted for 138 of this total figure.
The earthquake knocked out power and damaged buildings in the historic mountain town of Moxi in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, where 37 people were killed. Tents have been erected for more than 50,000 people displaced from homes made unsafe by the quake, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
State broadcaster CCTV showed rescue teams pulling a woman who appeared uninjured from a collapsed house in Moxi, where many buildings are made of wood and brick. About 150 people were reported with varying degrees of injuries.
Another 28 people were killed in neighboring Shimian county, on the outskirts of Ya’an city. State media reported 248 people injured, mostly in Moxi, and 16 others missing.
Three of the dead were workers at the Hailuogou Scenic Area, a nature reserve of glaciers and forests.
Along with the deaths, authorities reported landslides that damaged homes, caused power outages and trapped people behind a newly created lake. A landslide has blocked a rural road, leaving it littered with rocks.
The earthquake and lockdown follow a heatwave and drought that led to water shortages and power outages due to Sichuan’s reliance on hydroelectricity.
China’s deadliest earthquake in recent years was a magnitude 7.9 quake in 2008 that killed nearly 90,000 people in Sichuan. The quake devastated towns, schools and rural communities outside Chengdu, prompting a years-long effort to rebuild with stronger materials.