The earthquake hit Sichuan province early in the afternoon. In the capital Beijing, people rushed to find safety, or stayed indoors while their buildings swayed frighteningly. Offices and buildings were full of workers and shoppers.
It is the latest headache for Beijing, ahead of the Olympics this summer. After the worldwide protests against the Olympic Torch, this was another disaster to be dealt with. But there are no reports of damage in the capital, and the showpiece Olympic stadium is said to be unscathed.
Safety experts at the giant Three Gorges Dam report no damage either. Some engineers have warned that the weight of water in the immense reservoir could magnify the scale of any tremors.
News from the earthquake scene has been swiftly relayed to the media and on to the Chinese people. It’s seen as further proof of China’s more relaxed attitude as it prepares to welcome the world to the Olympics in three months’ time.