CHENGDU, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The death toll has risen to 19, with 247 injured, including 40 in serious conditions, after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit a remote area in southwest China's Sichuan Province Tuesday night, local authorities said Wednesday.
The earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou County at 9:19 p.m. Tuesday at a depth of 20 kilometers, according to China Earthquake Networks Center.
Chinese leaders have called for all-out efforts on relief and rescue work.
The People's Hospital of Jiuzhaigou County has received 156 of the injured. Of the twenty-four seriously injured admitted last night, one has already been discharged, according to surgeon Yuan Jin.
A French man and a Canadian woman are being treated at the hospital. Maxence Vallon, 18, suffered injuries to both legs. Doctors said stone fragments were embedded in his right leg and he needed immediate surgery to prevent infection. The Canadian woman suffered a slight head injury.
"We were on open ground when a rock fell and hit my brother on the leg," said Romain Vallon, a student in Beijing. The brothers were staying with their mother in a hotel in Jiuzhaigou when the quake struck.
The Canadian woman is expected to leave hospital within two or three days, doctors said. "We have received excellent care. The rescue workers and doctors have been very helpful," she said. The exact number of injuries to foreign nationals in the disaster is unconfirmed.
Shen Ji, director of the provincial health and family planning commission, said more than 30 ambulances and over 500 medical personnel have been sent to the affected area. The provincial disease control and prevention center has sent a team to assess health risks and prevent epidemics. A 200-member medical aid team from neighboring Gansu Province is standing by.
Staff and pandas at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda were unaffected.
Rescue workers are assisting stranded tourists at the popular tourist destination of Jiuzhaigou, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations.
More than 45,000 tourists have so far been evacuated. Authorities aim to relocate all tourists today.
Over 800 workers are combing villages in search of anyone still trapped, according to the provincial quake relief headquarters.
Wang Zhibin, a police officer in Jiuzhaigou, said fallen rocks and landslides blocking roads had largely been cleared by 5 a.m.
Rescue workers are trying to reach eight people trapped by debris after a building collapsed in Zhangzha township.
The quake relief headquarters said the provincial police department has dispatched over 90 vehicles carrying relief goods to the affected areas.
At around 6 a.m., the first emergency rescue flight, carrying a team of nearly 100, arrived at the Jiuzhai-Huanglong Airport, the transportation hub for relief work. The National Earthquake Response Support Service sent two light helicopters with seismologists, medicine and relief goods to Jiuzhaigou.
On Wednesday morning, tourists were sitting in front of their hotels, wrapped in quilts. A tourist, surnamed Liu, told Xinhua that they had stayed up all night.
The road linking local airport with the worst hit area has been cut off by fallen rocks. As of 1 p.m., all the flights from the airport were delayed. Scores of passengers were stranded at the airport.
Taxi drivers from the neighboring Songpan County have voluntarily driven to the airport and set up booths offering free food and drinks as well as free taxi rides for stranded passengers and rescuer workers.
Tibetan taxi driver Angchuk, 26, is one of the drivers at the airport. He said that several groups of tourists had been taken to the nearest town, about 18 km away from the airport.
"I did what was needed. We should all do our part after a natural disaster," he said.
So far, only emergency vehicles and ambulances have been allowed to enter the area while passenger buses loaded with tourists are leaving, many via Wenxian County, Gansu Province. The county government has sent over 200 police officers and officials to guide traffic and arrange accommodation.
The disaster reduction center of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said that based on a preliminary assessment 24,000 houses have collapsed or been severely damaged.
China Earthquake Administration has sent a 55-member team to the site.Sichuan and Gansu provinces have also dispatched their own teams.
More than 90 vehicles and 1,200 personnel are involved in the rescue work. Power, communication and water supplies in the county seat have been restored.
The quake was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu about 300 km south of the epicenter, and other regions in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. The population density within 50 kilometers of the epicenter is nine people per square kilometer.
The quake-hit Jiuzhaigou region is forecast to receive slight to moderate rainfalls in the coming days, the provincial meteorological bureau said Wednesday.
Rain is expected to fall in much of the Sichuan Basin Thursday night, with torrential rain forecast in the northwestern and part of the southern regions of the basin.
Meteorologists warned rain may cause secondary disasters such as flooding and landslides, and disaster-prevention efforts and measures should be strengthened.