A magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province on Monday, testing a part of China already beset by heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and a COVID-19 outbreak.
The number of people who died from the earthquake, attacked an area southwest of Sichuan 160 km from the provincial capital Chengdu, stand at 65 as of Tuesday afternoon Hong Kong time. State media reported 248 more injured and 12 missing.
Residents in nearby Chengdu could feel the tremors from the quake. But those trying to leave their homes have encountered another obstacle: health officials blocking the exit.
Chengdu officials imposed quick lock on September 1, telling the city’s 21 million residents to stay home. Only one family member is allowed out of the house each day to buy necessities. The city is also conducting a program of mass testing, which will run through Wednesday, to achieve “COVID-Zero in the community as soon as possible,” according to a statement. Released at the end of Sunday.
After the earthquake, Chinese social media users complain that COVID control measures prevented them from evacuating their homes. But some employees defended their actions, with a building manager told reporters from the state-owned store People’s Daily that, “No matter how severe the earthquake, it cannot be that severe. The safest place is at home.”
Chengdu is one of 33 cities under some form of lockdown as China battles a new outbreak. Small-scale outbreaks have emerged across the country in the past month, such as in tech hubs Shenzhentravel destinations Hainanand even distant Tibet.
Sichuan reported 950 COVID-19 cases in the past week, the province’s worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic. Chengdu officials, in addition to a quick shutdown, have also closed schools and entertainment venues, and ban anyone leaving the city without a negative COVID test taken within 24 hours.
Chengdu alone contributes about 1.7% of China’s GDP, according to Bloombergand is home to factories for companies like Volvo and Apple supplier Foxconn. Volkswagen and Foxconn are keeping their factories running under a closed system where workers are confined to their workplace, reports Bloomberg.
Control COVID nor supervise one of China’s largest auto shows, the Chengdu Motor Show, ended last Tuesday — five days ahead of schedule — after the local government banned all events in an effort to prevent increase in cases. (Chengdu officials imposed a swift lockdown two days later.) China’s electric car companies, such as BYDXpeng and Nioflocked to Chengdu’s auto show to showcase their latest models.
Sichuan is also emerging from a record heat wave, with temperatures regularly breaking 104°F throughout August. Low rainfall has strained the province’s hydroelectric stations, which generate 80% of the province’s electricity. Electricity demand also spiked due to the heat causing residents to turn on the air conditioner.
Both Sichuan and neighboring Chongqing have suspended power to factories on August 15 to save electricity for the family. Power cuts continued for more than two weeks, intermittent supply chain for companies like Toyota and Tesla.
In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture of China warns that low rainfall causes “Serious threat“To the country’s autumn harvest.
High temperature also ignite a forest fire across the province. Chinese social media is flooded with images of medical staff checking both residents and firefighters, sometimes with flames clearly visible in the background.
Register Fortune feature email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews and surveys.