Gansu Province Landscape via Shuttertock

Officials are just starting to pick up the pieces after an early morning earthquake rocked a hillside farming community near the city of Dingxi in China’s Gansu province. The quake, which is said to have been a magnitude-6.6 with subsequent tremors included a magnitude-5.6, triggered massive landslides in the arid region, damaging thousands of mud-and-brick homes. Current reports state that 75 have been killed by the disaster, while over 450 others are injured. Although 6.6 is indeed a strong earthquake, many are blaming poor building construction for the disproportionate number of fatalities.  According to the AP, the “shaking lasted about one minute, but wasn’t strong enough to cause major damage in urban areas, where buildings are more solidly built.”

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According to AP reports, damage was most severe in Min County, a rural community in Dingxi’s southern portion. There, scores of homes were damaged and telephone and electricity services knocked out. Many farms are built into rolling hills terraced for crops and fruit trees. While the effect is beautiful, it’s certainly not stable, especially during a particularly shallow earthquake such as the one that struck this morning.

Homes built of nothing more than mud and brick seemed to topple in on themselves, even though no cracking was observed in the walls. This sent showers of dirt, rock, and tile flowing down the hillsides where it blocked roads and slowed rescue efforts. Heavy rain is expected in the area later in the week, increasing the chance of further landslides.

“The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area and sending teams from both Lanzhou and Beijing to help with relief work and assess further needs,” reports the AP.

Images via Dayou1975/Flickr