UNESCO World Heritage Site in China hit by an quake

Rescuers carry a man injured in a landslide in Gengdi village in southwestern China's Sichuan province

Taiwan is willing to help and offer all necessary assistance, the Presidential Office said Wednesday, after a strong natural disaster struck a popular tourist spot in Sichuan Province in southwestern China on Tuesday night.

The top-level national emergency response continued amid ongoing aftershocks on Thursday, involving at least four helicopters, 90 vehicles, hundreds of soldiers, medical personnel and more than 1,200 rescuers, state television China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

It added that 19 people had been killed, but most of those injured were not seriously hurt.

According to local officials, 45 people have sustained grave and 56 - moderately grave injuries.

Rescuers picked away rubble from around a body in an area shaken by a powerful quake in mountainous southwestern China, then stood silently in a row, with helmets off and heads bowed to pay their respects.

The quake was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu, about 300 kms south of the epicentre, and other regions in the neighbouring provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi, the report said. Among the dead are six tourists and two local residents while the rest have yet to be identified.

The Consulate General of Japan in Chongqing said that apart from a Japanese tour group already confirmed as safe, it has confirmed that some individual Japanese tourists were in the quake zone.

Wang Zhibin, a police officer in Jiuzhaigou, said fallen rocks and landslides blocking roads had largely been cleared by 5am yesterday.

The Sichuan fire service said the reception area in a hotel had collapsed, trapping some people, but that 2,800 people had already been safely evacuated from the building.

A quake in Sichuan in May 2008 killed nearly 70,000 people. More than 100,000 houses were damaged, and power was knocked out across the region.

It was reported that some 30,000 tourists were stranded in Jiuzhaigou following the quake.

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