Death toll rises as powerful earthquake hits China

An aerial view shows houses damaged. Photo: Reuters/China Daily

It's now more than 12 hours since the earthquake struck at just after eight in the morning. We are half-way through the 'golden' 24 hours when emergency workers have their best chances to save people injured in natural disasters.

The powerful earthquake measured almost 7.0 in magnitude. Buildings shook violently, people rushed into the streets. Homes have been destroyed, buildings have collapsed.

TV pictures show a heavily pregnant woman who'd been trapped in the rubble of her house for more than two hours being rescued.

Police officers in China's Sichuan province rescue pregnant woman. Credit: China Central Television

In Longshan town, near the epicentre, tents have been set for medical teams to treat the more than five thousand injured. Doctors have delivered at least one baby, a new life born on a day when many lives have been lost.

The death toll continues to rise, more than a hundred and fifty people have been reported killed so far.

Rescue workers sit on the debris of destroyed houses after the earthquake. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

More than two thousand soldiers have been deployed to the area, a massive rescue operation searching for survivors. Landslides making their efforts even more difficult. An army truck came off the road, crashing into a river valley and two soldiers were killed.

Many roads remain blocked and hundreds of trucks, vans and cars carrying medical teams, supplies, earth-moving equipment and soldiers clog the only routes left into the worst affected areas.

The ruins of collapsed buildings lay among those still standing after an earthquake in 2008. Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu

5 years ago almost to the day, there was a huge earthquake in the same area, which left more than 90,000 dead and missing.

Widespread devastation affected more than two million people. Within hours of the earthquake hitting, China's prime minister Li Keqiang was on his way, a high profile response from the government.

The massive rescue effort will go on through the night. Some villages are cut-off, and there are reports of many more houses destroyed in areas emergency workers haven't been able to get to.