Students gather outside a school in China's Sichuan province after… (Deng Liangkui / New China…)
BEIJING -- A strong earthquake struck China’s Sichuan province on Saturday morning, state media said, and early reports from the scene indicated significant injuries and at least 41 deaths.
The earthquake’s epicenter was about 80 miles southwest of the provincial capital, Chengdu, in Lushan County near the small city of Yaan.
Chinese television said at least 41 people were killed and 600 injured. Authorities warned that the death toll could rise sharply.
But the damage did not appear anywhere close in scale to that of a 2008 earthquake nearby that caused nearly 90,000 deaths, one of the worst natural disasters in recent Chinese history.
Chinese authorities assessed the magnitude of the quake at 7.0; the U.S. Geological Survey reported 6.6.
The 8 a.m. quake jolted residents out of bed. People ran into the streets wearing their pajamas, according to reports from the scene.
The quake brought back terrifying memories of the May 12, 2008, earthquake along the same fault line running through the mountainous province.
"We pray together for the safety of those in the disaster area,’’ a post on the New China News Agency's microblog said.
Photographs posted on the Internet from Lushan County showed cracked buildings and piles of rubble. Other photos showed injured people lying on a sidewalk being treated by emergency crews. Residents wrote that many houses were destroyed.
Chengdu’s airport was closed immediately after the quake but has since reopened.
Pakistani police arrest former President Pervez Musharraf
Protests follow judges' rulings in Guatemalan war crimes trial
New details in Boston bombings revive fears for Sochi Olympics
Sichuan’s seismological bureau reported that as many as 100 people may have been injured or killed by a quake of this strength.