12 people die, 134 injured as two strong earthquakes jolt China’s Sichuan province

The death toll from two strong earthquakes in China rose to 12 on Tuesday, with 134 people hurt, as rescuers pulled bodies and survivors from shattered buildings.

The quakes, about 30 minutes apart, hit the southwestern province of Sichuan late on Monday, with trembling felt in key regional cities, such as the provincial capital of Chengdu and the metropolis of Chongqing.

Nine people died in Changning County and three others in Qixian County, the Yibin city government said in its Twitter-like Weibo account, up from an initial death toll of six overnight.

More than 500 firefighters have been deployed on the spot. Rescuers were also sent with 5,000 tents, 10,000 folding cots and other emergency supplies.

According to the United States Geological Survey, a quake of magnitude 5.9 was followed by a smaller one of 5.2 magnitude, both at a depth of 10km and centred near Changning county.

More than 4,000 people were shifted as dozens of buildings were damaged or collapsed outside Yibin in Sichuan province, according to the city government.

There were several aftershocks, the China Earthquake Administration said, while the US quake agency recorded one of magnitude 5.2 on Tuesday.

Cracks appeared in several highways and a major highway connecting Yibin and Xuyong County was closed, according to Xinhua news agency, which also reported that a hotel close to the epicentre collapsed, but there was no immediate word of any casualties.

People rushed into the streets and cracks were left in some buildings by the quakes, pictures posted on the social media accounts of state media showed

Earthquakes regularly strike Sichuan, where a powerful 7.9-magnitude quake left 87,000 people dead or missing in 2008.