Covid-19 restrictions trap residents as earthquake rocks Chinese City

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Some residents of Chinese city, Chengdu, said they were restricted from leaving the city as a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit the city.

The earthquake resulted in the death of not less than 65 persons but footage shows that some residents in the city were stopped from fleeing their compounds due to a Covid lockdown.

Those that ran out say they found the exits shut due to Covid restrictions.

Chengdu, with its population of 21 million people, is currently under strict lockdown rules.

Videos shared on Douyin, China’s TikTok platform, show panicked residents behind chained gates, shouting to be let out.

In one, a man swears at security guard, rattling what appears to be his apartment gates and trying to open it, shouting: “Hurry up, open the door, it’s an earthquake!” In response, the guards say: “It’s over, the earthquakes already over.”

Another video claims to be an audio recording of a loudspeaker message that said: “Go back home and do not gather here, it’s just an earthquake. We [here in Sichuan] have a lot of experience [when it comes to earthquakes].”

A man spoke with the BBC said he had run out of his 30-floor building after feeling the earthquake’s tremors. When he realised he was trapped, he raised complaints among the crowd gathered at the gates.

“Which one is more important? The lockdown or the earthquake?” Lu Siwei, a lawyer in Chengdu, had shouted.

He says his neighbour replied: “Do not incite emotions and do not talk politics.” After several heated rounds, Mr Lu says the man then physically assaulted him.

There have been no reports linking any fatalities from the quake to the restrictions on compounds, but such reports have sparked overwhelming criticism from those on microblogging site Weibo.

“It’s a joke that we have to discuss such a question,” said one commentator under a post from a local news site which quoted a lawyer saying citizens were “constitutionally” free to flee to safety. The post had received over 3.7 million views by Tuesday.

“I guess it’s fine if I die inside the building, at least I didn’t get infected,” said another comment sarcastically.

The Chengdu Health Commission later posted on its official WeChat account that “priority should be given to safeguarding the lives of the public in the event of earthquakes, fires, floods and other disasters”.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, has been beset by a heatwave and drought this summer and last week was plunged into a lockdown after an increase in Covid cases.

China’s Covid policies require cities to enter strict lockdowns – even if just a handful of cases are reported.

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