Earthquake in China has claimed 157 lives, with more than 5,700 injured (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake in southwestern China has left 157 dead and more than 5,700 people injured, Reuters reports. The Chinese army has stepped in to deal with the debris of collapsed houses and public building as death toll continues to rise.

Please follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on the earthquake in China.

The disaster has struck the country’s south-western Sichuan province at 00:02 AM GMT (8:02 AM local time) on Saturday, at a depth of around 13 kilometers (7,6 miles), according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

China’s seismological bureau initially measured the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.0 on the Richter scale, while the US Geological Service estimated the magnitude at 6.6.

Preliminary reports indicate at least 157 confirmed deaths, Reuters reported, and around 5,700 people injured, many of them seriously, in the quake in the city of Ya’an, Sichuan. It is quite close to where a huge quake hit in 2008, claiming the lives of almost 70,000 people.

China’s Earthquake Administration has reported that over 1.5 million people have been affected by the earthquake and aftershocks.

Since the rescue operation began 54 people, two children and a pregnant woman among them, are reported to have been dug out alive from under the collapsed buildings. According to unofficial estimates, up to 90 per cent of all buildings in the Ya’an area have been somehow damaged by the earthquake.

Nearly 8,000 troops are already assisting in the rescue operation and 10,000 more remain on standby ready to be dispatched into the disaster zone.

China’s state-owned CCTV channel said that currently only emergency vehicles are allowed access into Yan’an, athough Chengdu airport is once again functional.

It has been reported that a bus transporting 17 soldiers to the earthquake area crashed into a river from a cliff. One of the soldiers died in hospital, while five more were seriously injured.

Thousands of prisoners have been evacuated from the local prisons in Sichuan. No deaths have been reported among the prisoners.

There are also reports of light rain hitting Ya’an, which raises the danger of landslides.

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