Chinese authorities say a powerful earthquake that jolted China's Sichuan province on Saturday has left at least 124 people dead but that the death toll is expected to climb sharply.

Earthquake in China (AFP/Getty Images)

China's seismological bureau says the quake was a magnitude-7 and the U.S. Geological Survey says it measured 6.6.

It struck the steep hills of Lushan county shortly after 8 a.m. toppling buildings, many of them older brick structures. Photos posted online showed people ran into the streets in their underwear and wrapped in blankets.

Thousands of people have been injured.

Lushan is home to 1.5 million people. Known for its mountains, the area is near a well-known preserve for pandas.

A man who answered the phone at the Ya'an city government said telecommunications were cut and that medical and rescue teams are on the way.  The area lies near the same geological fault where the devastating 7.9-magnitude quake struck in May 2008, leaving more than 90,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead.


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