YA'AN, China - Residents huddled outdoors Saturday night in a town near the epicenter of a powerful earthquake that struck the steep hills of China's southwestern Sichuan province. It left at least 179 people dead and more than 6,700 injured.
Saturday morning's earthquake triggered landslides and disrupted phone and power connections in mountainous Lushan county five years after a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage across the region. The village of Longmen was hit particularly hard, with authorities saying nearly all the buildings there had been destroyed in a frightening minute-long shaking.
In nearby Ya'an town, where aftershocks could be felt nearly 20 hours after the quake, residents sat in groups outside convenience stores watching the news on television sets. Fourteen-year-old Wang Xing sat with her family on chairs by the roadside in the cool night air, a large blanket on her lap.
Wang and her relatives said they planned to spend the night in their cars. "We don't feel safe sleeping at home tonight," said Wang, a student. She said the quake left tears on the walls of her family's house.
Rescuers turned the square outside the Lushan County Hospital into a triage center where medical personnel bandaged bleeding victims, according to footage on China Central Television. Rescuers dynamited boulders that had fallen across roads to reach Longmen and other damaged areas lying farther up the mountain valleys, state media reported.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived Saturday afternoon by helicopter in Ya'an to direct rescue efforts, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
The China Earthquake Administration said at least 179 people had died, and more than 6,700 were injured. At least 96 people were killed in Lushan, and in the jurisdiction of Ya'an, which administers Lushan, 19 people were reported missing, the administration said.
The quake - measured by the earthquake administration at magnitude-7.0 and by the U.S. Geological Survey at 6.6 - struck the steep hills of Lushan county shortly after 8 a.m. People in their underwear and wrapped in blankets ran into the streets of Ya'an and even the provincial capital of Chengdu, 70 miles east of Lushan, according to photos, video and accounts posted online.
Lushan reported the most deaths, but there was concern that casualties in neighboring Baoxing county might have been underreported because of inaccessibility after roads were blocked and power and phone services cut off.
As the region went into the first night after the quake, rain started to fall, slowing rescue work. Forecasts were for more rain in the next several days, and the China Meteorological Administration warned of possible landslides and other geological disasters.