BEIJING: A strong earthquake killed at least seven people, triggered landslides and shook residents in a major city under lockdown in southwestern China on Monday, state media reported.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck a mountainous area in Luding county in Sichuan province shortly after noon, the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) said.

Authorities reported seven deaths, landslides and damage to homes and power interruptions, state broadcaster China Central Television said. One landslide blocked a rural highway, leaving it strewn with rocks, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

The quake was felt 200 kilometers (125 miles) away in the provincial capital Chengdu, where a coronavirus outbreak has restricted most of its 21 million residents to their compounds under China's strict zero-Covid policy.

This strategy of imposing lockdowns, conducting mass Covid-19 tests, and isolating confirmed and suspected cases in special quarantine facilities to limit infections has fostered discontent across the country and battered the world's second-largest economy.

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Chengdu resident Jiang Danli said she hid under a desk for five minutes in her 31st floor apartment, while many of her neighbors rushed downstairs.

"There was a strong earthquake in June, but it wasn't very scary. This time I was really scared, because I live on a high floor and the shaking made me dizzy," she told The Associated Press (AP).

Another resident, surnamed Chen, said they " felt it quite strongly," adding that "some of my neighbors on the ground floor said they felt it very noticeably."

"But because Chengdu is currently under epidemic management, people aren't allowed to leave their residential compounds, so many of them rushed out into their courtyards," Chen said, using the authorities' preferred term for lockdown.

Telecommunication lines with Moxi, a town of about 7,000 people near the epicenter, were cut off in the aftermath of the temblor, state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported.

A video posted online by CENC showed boulders thundering down mountainsides in Luding, kicking up clouds of dust as tremors swayed roadside telephone wires.

More than 500 rescue personnel have been dispatched to the epicenter while workers attempt to clear roads blocked by landslides triggered by the tremor, CGTN said.

The earthquake follows a heat wave and drought that led to water shortages and power cuts due to Sichuan's reliance on hydropower.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a magnitude of 6.6 for Monday's quake at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). Preliminary measurements by different agencies often differ slightly.

Sichuan, which sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau where tectonic plates meet, is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In June, at least four people were killed and dozens more injured after two earthquakes struck southwestern China. The first was a shallow 6.1-magnitude quake that hit a sparsely populated area about 100 km west of Chengdu. This was followed three minutes later by a 4.5-magnitude temblor in a nearby county, where the deaths and injuries occurred.

China's deadliest earthquake in recent years was a 7.9-magnitude quake in 2008 that killed nearly 90,000 people in Sichuan. The temblor devastated towns, schools and rural communities outside Chengdu, leading to a yearslong effort to rebuild with more resistant materials.

WITH AFP